Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 6 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | February 8, 2015

Last week, just two Days after Downton Abbey introduced a new character, Atticus, Harper Lee announced the release of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Coincidence? I think not. Ice cream and champagne for everyone!!

You’ve Got a Friend: Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow:

“Lord Sinderby, he’s rich, isn’t he?” Yes, Lord Duh always has a firm grasp of the obvious, doesn’t he? How rich would a person have to be for Robert, born with a platinum spoon, to comment on it like that? But yes, Lord Sinderby has got a lot of beans, and a son who tends to love everyone, (and call me kooky, but in his face and expressions, he reminds me of a blushing Princess Diana a bit. Do you see it too?)  Anyway, Rose says he’s just a friend and she doesn’t like him at all – other than as a friend. Don’t say she does. But things are progressing. One would think it’s a safe bet that in the week since the introduction of this #HotHebrewHunk, little old Jewish ladies around the country have been storming their PBS stations wanting to know if the actor who plays Atticus is really M.O.T. – and can he meet their daughters (and sons!) The sky, it’s blue, isn’t it? But Violet is not so enthusiastic. There’s always something, isn’t there? Iceberg, Goldberg, what’s the difference? Though one wonders why she would even think twice about it considering Cora’s lineage. And if this relationship gives Violet pause, think about poor Lord Sinderby: A shiksah is bad enough, wait till he finds out her Father is a shellfish!

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Ride Sally Ride:

Mary is so vain, she probably thinks this show is about her. She’s so vain that Anna has to remind her she mustn’t make jokes about Editor Charming’s violent death. Feeling frumpy, Mary decides to do something jolly with her hair before she sees both Lord Tiger and Blake at the big picnic at Canningford Grange (Lord Sinderby’s gaff) on Shabbos. Don’t underestimate the power of a pair of scissors: The hair bob was very controversial in 1924. Headlines screamed that it was the result of falling morals, caused insanity, would make you go bald, and would lead to divorce (thankfully, no mention of Benghazi though). Newly shorn Mary walks into the drawing room, like she was walking onto a yacht and certainly makes quite the splash. She demands compliments from everyone in attendance, though the best Lord Sassoon can muster is the non-committal non-compliment/non-insult, “it’s just the sort of thing I would expect of you.” What is he, running for office? Does he know his peerage is inherited? Anyway, it’s off to the races! Mary is dying to ride astride to show Tony what he’s missing, but she doesn’t want to give granny the impression that she is anatomically correct, so she rides side-saddle to victory. And who else is there? The formerly phantom, now suddenly everywhere Mabel Lane Fox (giving Madge hope). Turns out Blake is quite the master manipulator and has arranged this chance meeting between He & Mary & Tony & Mabel. Now they’re all coming back to Downton for a post-race sleepover. What could go wrong? BOOM goes the dynamite!

Random factoid: Silent film star Pola Negri one of the early adapters of The Bob, lived an adventurous and tempestuous life. She was probably best known for collapsing at Rudolph Valentino’s funeral, and starting the fashion of trend of red painted toenails.

The Good Wife: A Dog’s Life:

Lord Petulant is still keeping Cora at arm’s length over the Bricker non-affair, and keeping Cora away from Edith as well. Not sure if the latter is about being spiteful over the Bricker incident or simply his natural know-it-all tendencies, but either way, it’s not good for Edith. And Robert is still trying to make a point by camping out in his dressing room. Thankfully, Cora rightly calls him on his hypocrisy, causing Robert to go over the list of women in his head, call his accountant to help him with the numbers, tabulate how much his Man of Business had to pay out to Maid Jane, and then finds it in his best interests to skedaddle back to Cora’s room. The fact that Cora read Robert so well on flirtations getting out of hand and wrong impressions, made me wonder just how much she really knows about his past dalliances. Wanting to know what he told Bates was a giveaway. She has to know the servants gossip, and she has to have heard some of it (hello, she spent years with O’Brien). Cora always seems so passive, but there’s passive, and then there’s overly medicated. Could she know so little about what goes on under her roof, or is it just that she chooses to overlook certain things, as long as they won’t embarrass her in front of others, in order to keep the peace in this gilded cage (lest they end up like Lord and Lady Shrimpy)?  In that speech she gave Robert in the dressing room we saw some of that woman who ran the Downton Hospital return.  And, Cora does notice that Isis is terribly listless, (a kindred spirit?), then she disappears altogether. Nobody notices that Cora is now hunched down by the chair but Isis has vaporized into thin air. One supposes the reactions would be about the same if it were Edith lying on the floor. But after a few days of Isis lying motionless, Robert starts to consider thinking about maybe calling Sir Philip Tapsell to come take a look at her. Pray for her.

Ticket to Ride: If You’re Happy and You Know It, Shut Up About It Already!:

To quote Ladies Maid Extraordinaire, PollyAnna Bates, “I’m so happy!” To quote a response from the great philosopher and loyal opposition, Charles Brown, ‘ARRGGHH!!!’ Not again! So it turns out that ticket to London wasn’t proof of Bates’ guilt, it was proof of his innocence. The good news: He didn’t do it! The bad news: Everyone assumed he did and destroyed the evidence – and how can they explain that now? If he gets arrested, Lady Mary cannot very well tell the Old Bill that she thought he was guilty so she tossed the evidence in the fire, but now that she knows it’s proof of his innocence she’ll take a do-over, thank you very much. Both she and Mrs. Hughes would face charges. The detective from Scotland Yard leans on Baxter to get her to give up what she knows about Mr. and Mrs. Bates, but like she already told Thomas, she doesn’t know anything – at least, nothing she can swear too. And on top of that, Bates goes looking for Anna’s button box and instead finds The Thing: That cunning piece of equipment, and some light reading, from the mind of Marie Stopes. We knew this was coming. Though why Anna won’t stop speaking in riddles and just say it belongs to Mary is beyond me. As the pre-season advertisements said, ‘devotion has a price’. Anna is devoted to both Bates and Mary. Which devotion will prove most costly? Bates says, if the train station clerk remembers selling him a ticket, “I’m a dead man.” No Mr. Bates, if Anna doesn’t stop saying how happy she is, you’re a dead man, and that’s flat! And here’s something else: If Bates didn’t do it, and Anna didn’t do it, who did? Could it have been Lord Gillingham himself? Lord Fellowes’ talent for knowing which bits of the story to tell, and which bits to leave untold always leaves us curious (some might say neurotic) and wanting more. Did we ever find out if Tony had gotten the chance to fire Green before he was killed? I can’t remember. Is there a clue there? Gillingham wanted to know why Mary wanted Green fired, but she wouldn’t say. Did Gillingham ask Green himself? Was there a confrontation where Green inadvertently gave his guilt away, angering Gillingham at the thought this caused him to lose face in the eyes of the object of his affection? Did he then go after Green? Or maybe it was potential serial killer Mabel Lane Fox? Or maybe there was no shove, and no, “why have you come?” at all. Maybe Lord Tony concocted this and asked his servant to come forward with this story (all this time later) for some reason. Let fear and trembling commence!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes: Daft Punk: 

Speaking of crimes: It is just as we thought. Thomas went to London for some quack ‘therapy’ to change him, to make him more like other men. Electrotherapy and saline injections should have him farting into the couch in no time. Clarkson says harsh reality is always better than false hope (this from the Doc who applied this theory to Matthew, thereby sending everyone on a wild goose chase for much of Season 2), but he is sympathetic (i.e. at least he didn’t call the cops like Alfred did in Season 3). In the run up to this season, Masterpiece released one particular trailer containing a couple of snippets that made me so curious I watched it over and over again to figure out to whom the lines were directed. One was Lord Grantham yelling, “Leave this house and never come back!” which we now know was directed at Miss Buntinsky. Pre-season, I had wondered if it was his reaction to finding out about Edith’s baby. The other phrase, the half-whispered, “God in heaven” had me imagining all sorts of things. Turns out it was just Baxter responding to the sight of Thomas’ abscess. A bit of an anti-climax there. I was expecting something a bit bigger. Then again, I suppose it was kind of a big abscess. Despite everything Thomas has done to her over all this time she’s been at Downton – bullied her, threatened her, now exposed her to the cops – when he asked for help, Baxter was still willing to forgive him enough to get him help. And she even tried to talk some sense into him about his potential. Might this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Not THAT kind of friendship, just a kindness that brings Thomas the only change he really needs: To become a mensch? He might get lucky. Time and Baxter may change him in that regard, but we’ve come too far to give up who Thomas is. We’d kind of miss our weekly dose of malevolent plotting.

A Historical Fact: Inspired by The Imitation Game – the movie about Alan Turning, starring our Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch – there is currently a move afoot in the UK to have the British government pardon the over 49,000 men convicted of consenting same-sex relations under the “gross indecency” law, and other anti-gay laws before they were repealed in 2003 (Even though, technically, it is the government that did wrong and should be in need of pardon for persecuting these men). Turing, one of the Bletchley Code Breakers, and who Winston Churchill said, “made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in World War II,” was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth in 2014, but there are thousands more still awaiting any kind of justice. Not wanting to join that list might have been at least part of Thomas’ motivation for seeking ‘treatment’.

Cottage Industry: Love Shack:

Mrs. Patmore goes house hunting with Carson and Mrs. Hughes. Real estate: That’s where it’s at. A cottage with an outside privy and not much of a cook’s kitchen, but maybe after decades of feeding the five thousand, she’d like to retire to a life of grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza delivery, and who could blame her? And her step onto the property ladder inspires Carson to think about his life in retirement too, and (obviously) think about what it would mean to no longer share the remains of the day with Mrs. Hughes. So he proposes; not that they marry, but that they shack up in retirement. Or at least, invest in an income property together now, and rent it out till they retire with a tidy sum. And then who knows what. Carson, you dark horse! Farther away from retirement is Daisy (while not close to retirement altogether, maybe she is closer to retirement from service). Since Miss Buntinsky’s exit, she has thrown herself into her studies and now speaks of her old teacher the same way she spoke of William after his demise. But Daisy has other champions coaching her corner. Mr. Molesley, for one. The downstairs Edith who, like Daisy had to leave school early (at 12) to start earning, believes it’s too late for him. Molesley would like to help Daisy make it over the wall to freedom. When Daisy initially dismisses his offer of help, Mrs. Patmore offers wise words, as important as any to be found in her books, “We should always be polite to people who are kind. There’s not much of it about.” Thank you Mrs. Patmore! And who knows, might Daisy’s War of the Spanish Succession studies be a precursor to a succession of her own? Is she going to go Gwen?

Purple Reign: Tonight I Wanna Party Like It’s 1874:

The Dowager Countess of Grantham is one formidable soul, and a Violet that could never be accused of shrinking. One would think that at her age all this current upheaval has got to flatten some of that formidability out of her, don’t you agree? While her new maid, Danker, is a bit too judgy to be seen in that part of town (which should actually make her a perfect match for Sprat), The Dow G visits Prince Badenov in his hovel, where he offers her Top Ramen and tea made from boiled socks, to tell him that Shrimpy is getting closer to finding his wife, the long lost Princess Irina. This, clearly, is not the news lover boy was looking for. Speaking like a Russian Tarzan, he reminds Violet about the way they were when she was the most beautiful girl in the world and he was a National Geographic photographer photographing bridges; about secret assignations, and how nothing compares to her (then or since). He does lay it on a bit thick. While she wants to state for the record that she was not unhappy with her hubby, they negotiate an accord that includes a concession on historical boundaries and who might or might not have been unhappy with whom, while not not admitting to anything ill bred. It’s an economical conversation that is all about longing for what isn’t said. Will, “You do know me, Igor” become the new, “See ya, Hubbell”? That remains to be seen. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Sprat blows a gasket over who will wash the Dowager’s undies. Violet does give Danker fair warning: It’s Sprat’s world, we just live in it, but nope. Danker don’t play that. One suggests she refer to the Dower House Instruction Manual, under the listing Molesley, Mr., whatever happened to. If all this weren’t bad enough, now Isobel is about to announce that she has decided to accept Lord Merton’s hand in marriage, feeling it is the last thing on her bucket list. And as she says it, you can see the clouds pass across the landscape of Violet’s face as she contemplates losing her longtime companion. What began as oil and water has become so much more. It turns out we misjudged Violet’s interference in the budding romance. She really wasn’t jealous of Isobel. She was jealous of Lord Merton. If she loses the company of her BFF, Sprat and Danker will be a sorry consolation prize.

A House is Not a Home: Mother and Child Reunion:

The second worst thing that could happen, happens: Edith finally learns the fate of Editor Charming. Somebody warn Madge (if you can find her). Turns out Gregson was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was killed in Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. But fortunately, Hitler was put in jail, so he won’t be able to cause any more trouble in the future. While Edith is in mourning, everyone else is making merry plans. She is the only one in black, no one takes her grief seriously and they have no clue what to say to her. The most Lord Grantham can muster is, “I suppose they loved each other.”  They seem to attribute it all to Edith being Edith and take turns grinding her heart into the gravel with their ambivalent heels. When Edith, undoubtedly remembering all the sympathy Mary got when Matthew died, gets spikey with her newly coiffed sister, she gets admonished with a “that’s not fair!” from Cora. But when Mary tells Edith she ruins everything, no one says a word. Edith makes a break for daylight. She accepts the burden that chance has seen fit to lay upon her and tries to fashion as good a life as she’s able with Marigold. Luckily she hedged her bets by never turning over legal custody.

Farmer Drewe tells the searching Dowager he won’t say anything, “and neither will she“, though it looks like she might have other ideas after this betrayal.  But what’s the big mystery? If anyone wants to go looking for Edith, it shouldn’t be hard to find her. Eventually she’s got to show up at the business she now owns, right? Edith inherits Gregson’s publishing empire. Will Edith become a pre-historic Katherine Graham, or will someone come forward to challenge the will? And what about the loony wife? Might she (or her family) be able to make a claim? What if she wasn’t ever loony at all? But forget all that, right now Edith and Marigold are together, and they’ll be as jolly as they like! But is it too late? Will Marigold be able to bond with her after all this time? Marigold looked rather listless (obviously she takes after Cora), and it looks like the Drewes gave her a Toni Home Perm since last week, but is she just a tired toddler or is she traumatized and wanting her Mummy Drewe? She had to have heard all the arguing in the Drewe house about keeping Edith away from her, but at her age, what has registered? Is this going to be yet another heartbreak for Edith who now has to live the Bohemian life she tasted with Gregson (i.e. survive without servants). Sybil did it. Hopefully she left behind an instruction manual. What would be a fun outcome (at least for Edith) is if Lord Grantham and Mary lose all the money, yet again, and have to go to Edith the publishing magnate for a bailout to save Downton. Wouldn’t THAT be a turn-up for the books?

The Dowager Countessdown (Violet’s Best Zingers):

5. We can’t run away when there’s no one left to run away from.

4. Oh, it is you. I thought it was a man wearing your clothes.

3. All this endless thinking, it’s very overrated…I blame the war. Before 1914 nobody thought about anything at all.

2. There’s always something, isn’t there?

1. I think she’s cracked.

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