Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 4 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | January 25, 2015

There was a moment in tonight’s episode that made me gasp out loud and sit bolt upright. Was it the same for you, Downtonians? It was a moment that made me wonder. Suppose when Green said, “Why have you come?”, he wasn’t talking to Bates? Suppose he was talking to Anna? Cue the music…

What’s in a Name: The Rainbow Connection:

We begin with the lonely figure of Thomas returning to the great house. He looks pale and has dark circles under his eyes, leading us to surmise that either he had a very good time or a very bad time in London. We soon find out it was likely the latter. We don’t know for sure, but it seems as if that advertisement in the back of Popular Footmen magazine was for some sort of barbaric homosexual conversion ‘therapy’ scheme that was common at the time. We are in 1924, long before Stonewall, when mainstream medical professionals and lay people thought homosexuality was a mental illness and it was often ‘treated’ in inhumane ways that included castration, electric shock, lobotomy, or torture drugs (which look to be what Thomas is using). Sometimes men and women sought out these ‘treatments’ in a desperate attempt to fit into the society that unjustly reviled, persecuted and prosecuted them. Other times they were committed to mental institutions and tortured against their will. It might be one of the most shocking (and brushed aside) aspects of recent history brought home to Downton in these five seasons. Unfortunately today, despite long since becoming a discredited relic of the past, in less enlightened places (including some places in the US) conversion ‘therapy’ is still forced upon young people, often with the same predictably tragic results. And here at Downton, it is throwing open a window into understanding Thomas’ segregation and bitterness.

Meanwhile, file this under ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’: While Thomas is indisposed, poor Molesley finally gets that big promotion to First Footman which, as luck and bad timing would have it, isn’t all that great now that there’s no Second or Third Footmen. And by the way, Baxter is quite chirpy all of a sudden. Has she been taking Anna pills?

Serf City: Pick a Little, Talk a Little:

Here’s a tip for entertaining that Alastair Bruce seems to have left out of The Manners of Downton Abbey special: When compiling the invitation list for your next dinner party, please be sure to include at least one guest who seethes with incandescent rage. The steam coming out of their ears will be wonderful for the complexions of the guests sitting adjacent. Yes, not only does Miss Bunting have the nerve to come to dine without evening gloves, but she is a professional wet blanket as well, bringing fun to a screeching halt wherever she goes. But does she realize that when she dismissively refers to Branson as just ‘a retainer’, she belittles him as much as she does the Lords and Ladies she so loathes? Myopic Miss Buntinsky cannot see that these Crawley aristos think of Branson as one of them, as one of their family, now. He is not just a retainer. Maybe even Branson can’t fully see it. Is it that she doesn’t think they are capable of feelings, or is she afraid to admit to herself that she could fall for someone who is One Of Them; afraid of what that says about her? Either way, in the dining room she makes a scene worthy of the Queen Victoria Public House, as she accuses Lord Justifiably Annoyed of not knowing Daisy’s name. Hey, that’s not fair! He doesn’t know Edith’s name either! Summoned Daisy has a Norma Rae moment and then Buntinsky ruins it. Natch. When the fireworks display is over, we see Branson gazing over the gallery into the hall below in a way that is reminiscent of the way Sybil looked up at the house when she was considering whether or not to run away with Branson. Yes, it is a gilded cage, but it’s not so simple, is it?

The Impossible Dream: Write On!:

Something else not so simple, the laws that govern whose names can be part of the WWI memorial – leaving Mrs. Patmore’s nephew out in the cold. Carson shows no sympathy for distraught Mrs. Patmore – and no apology either. Lord Grantham does, even though he says his hands are tied. Fret not, Mrs. Patmore: Daisy has a plan. This is what comes from free Community College: All these serfs who think they have the right to all sorts of things, and they start writing letters. And score another point for Lord Quixote: He’s against over-development and ugly modern architecture! As he tries to explain to Mary and Branson why he wants to develop the field in a way that preserves the village’s charm, Lord Grantham stands there surveying his realm. And as he gazed across all assembled, (both real and imagined), I thought we should nominate him for the New York City Zoning Board! If Lord Grantham was in charge of developing our Village, maybe we wouldn’t have all those ugly, new high rises that ruin the neighborhood. Daisy, get to writing!

Russian Dressing: Wedding Bell Blues:

Violet takes Isobel to go visit Prince Badenov and Count NoGoodnik at their gulag, where Cousin Oliver Rose has been spending her days ladling borsht. Violet is on a mission to find out what happened to the missing Princess Badenov who, it seems (according to Shrimpy, PI), may now be a hooker in Shanghai. Violet feels she owes it to the Badenovs to find the missing Princess, which leaves us wondering, exactly what kind of havoc did young Countess Violet wreak upon their marriage? And what did her fling with the Prince do to her own? Did she and Lord Grantham only stay together for the look of the thing? Say what you will about Beau Badenov, but just don’t say he’s a poor old boy – or you just might get the same imperious death stare that Granny landed on Edith.

While Violet was preoccupied with the beau formerly known as Prince, Lord Merton made an end run around her defenses and got to Isobel, and I’m jolly well going to say it: Lord Merton is rather sweet, isn’t he? Sweet and earnest and quite smitten with Isobel. His proposal was every bit as romantic as Matthew’s was to Mary. Maybe more, but Isobel is reluctant. She doesn’t want to get married (she already turned down Dr. Clarkson), but rather than vote down the motion out of hand, she agrees to table it until their next session, and have a good think about it in the meantime. One thing Isobel should think about: If she marries Lord Merton she’ll inherit that step-son from hell. I can’t imagine he’ll take too kindly to a new step-mother potentially cutting into his inheritance. Just a hunch. Hopefully Violet will be around to protect her. Her cane could be quite handy for tripping him into a face plant. Sounds like a plan.

Mama Mia: Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You:

Speaking of Czars and Czaresses and their tzurises, since being shunned from the Drewe home, poor Edith has taken to tip toeing around, hiding behind hedges to catch glimpses of little Marigold. And when she decides to just pop in, Mrs. Drewe once again kicks her to the curb and slams the door in her face. On top of it all, Editor Charming’s office calls to give forlorn Edith the heads up about a trial going on in Germany that may finally bring them information on Michael’s fate. Given the timing, it seems this is in reference to Hitler’s trial for treason for the Beer Hall Putsch. Will we find out that Michael Gregson was one of the Third Reich’s first victims? When Edith says she doesn’t want Mary’s pity she gives Mary too much credit. Mary likely wouldn’t notice if her hair was on fire. Adding insult to injury, Darling Granny insists that it is in Edith’s (and the family’s) best interest to leave Marigold behind, but Edith differs: She could never let her go – though has that choice now been taken out of her hands for good?

One Potato, Two Potato: Let’s Stay Together:

Beanless Shrimpy comes for cocktails to announce his divorce from old misery guts. He simply cannot stay together for the look of the thing one minute longer. Lord Dim Bulb thinks Shrimpy is making a mistake, that he will lose his job and polite society will drop him like a hot potato because of it. But I think he is overlooking one very important fact: The Prince of Wales’ tour of India! After spending time with Lady Elphaba, the Prince just might have Lord Shrimpy knighted out of sympathy. Problem solved. It could happen. Closer to home, Cora and Robert continue to drift apart as he seems dead set on demeaning her at every turn. Lord Can’t Help Himself even cuts her out of a drawing room conversation by stepping directly in front of her, blocking her view with his arse like a conversational linebacker. Then, like a breath of salt air, Mr. Bricker returns to Downton. Poor Molesley. Now added to his growing list of duties: Getting the bronzer stains out of Mr. Bricker’s starched, white shirt collars. Bricker is flirting up a storm, not just with Isis, and annoying Robert in the process. But is the painting an excuse to get to Cora, or is Cora an excuse to get to the painting? And is there a parallel here, between Cora and Bricker and Robert, and Violet and Badenov and the elder Lord Grantham? It looks like Violet sees it, doesn’t it?

Foyle’s War: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do:

Tony the Tiger just won’t take the hint. But first, Blake sure does know how to set the cat amongst the pigeons, doesn’t he? He clearly enjoyed introducing potential serial killer Mabel Lane Fox to the shameless hussy who stole her man. What a putz. Then again, isn’t Mary hitting the ball back across the net by going to dinner with Blake and telling him she is sending Lord Tiger back to the Island of Lost Boys before she actually tells Tony himself? Blake definitely challenges Mary in a way that Tony does not. But here’s where it gets dicey once again: Blake tells a puzzled Mary that when she dumps Tony, she knows how to soften the blow. Hello! Yet another Red Flag that Lord Tiger has been less than discreet. Do we think this is intentional or unintentional? Is he just at Boodles every night, drunk and mouthing off about Lady Mary? And what else has he been indiscreet about? While we didn’t hear exactly what Mary said when she lowered the ax, we did catch a first glimpse of another side to him. His reaction was fifty shades of Sir Rupert. Here is another man who has something to hold over her – and will. And she folds. What is the deal with the seemingly strong Lady Mary being intimidated by yet another man? Is it just the discovery she fears, or the anger as well? When Lord Tiger asked, “Am I a bad lover?” I’m thinking Mary should have just tossed him her signature raised eyebrow look, turned on her heel and sashayed away. The End. Sigh, another missed opportunity. Now, whose move?

The Gift of the Magi, CSI: A Really Big Shoe:

Yes, Mary cannot pick up the freakin’ phone to call Lord Tiger, so Ladies Mule Anna delivers her note and unknowingly trips the alarm of a plain clothes detective who has been getting his shoes polished in front of Lord Gillingham’s flat for weeks, just waiting for the murderer to return to the scene of the crime. Dropping off the letter seemed innocent enough, but then she walked to Picadilly and stood there in that spot, looking at the street – and THAT is where I gasped! Did you? I’ve been to Picadilly (but before you ask, not on the day in question), it’s pretty big. How did Anna know to walk right to the spot where Green went splat? Was that just a coincidence? Oh. My. God. Suppose she’s like Baxter; a woman with a criminal past who came to Downton to reinvent herself? Suppose the police check her fingerprints and find out she’s wanted in thirteen states? Or maybe even twenty one? (See what I did there?) We don’t know anything about Anna’s past, other than her Mother once said, “don’t make an enemy by accident.” Did she also say something about making something seem like an accident? Suppose we’ve had it all wrong all this time? Suppose the real reason Bates went to jail for Vera’s murder, without really defending himself, wasn’t his self-esteem issues; suppose it was because he thought it was Anna who did it and he was protecting her? We know that Anna feared Bates would kill Green; suppose she killed him first to protect her beloved? Or maybe she just did it for herself (who could blame her if she did, aside from the cops?) And what was that impatient look about; the one Bates gave Anna when she said she wished they could all just forget about Mr. Green? Mary called her a dream; but have we all been living in a dream about sweet PollyAnna? Is she actually a serial killer? Maybe I’m just a cynical New Yorker jumping to conclusions, but when she stopped there in that spot, in a Picadilly instant I questioned everything I thought I knew about Anna, about life, about the world. I cannot be sure of anything anymore. Damn you, Fellowes! Why are you doing this to me?!? Now both Carson and Mrs. Hughes are lying to the cops to give her an alibi, making them accessories to something or other. It’s a funny thing; that police detective who keeps turning up seems affable enough, but how did that undercover London cop even know who Anna was or what she looked like (to recognize her on the street) unless there is a full on investigation and they’re working on it together? Does Lord Gillingham know about the cop planted in front of his gaff? Did he say something that tipped them off to the Crawley Crime Syndicate? Has the undercover cop been hanging out at Boodles? Or might it have just been a cold case file involving, I don’t know… the Turkish Embassy?! I can’t take the pressure!!!

The Dowager Countessdown (Violet’s Best Zingers):

5. Like all Englishmen of his type, he hid his qualities beneath a thick blanket of convention.

4. I never take sides in a broken marriage. Because however much the couple may strive to be honest, no one is ever is ever in full possession of the facts.

3. I will not suggest to which of those callings the Princess Kuragin was most suited.

2. I won’t take sides, it’s true, but I don’t think I could ever be described a neutral.

1. Hope is a tease designed to prevent us from accepting reality.

Drinking game alert!: This week, every time someone blurts out inconvenient news, or just says something one doesn’t want spoken out loud, everyone must make like a Crawley and raise their glasses to their lips and drink in unison. Bottoms up!