Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 5 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | January 31, 2016

I know exactly what you’re all thinking right now: Why couldn’t Lord Grantham have done that when he was sitting across the table from Larry Grey? Why???

The dining room at Downton has seen more than its share of disastrous dinner parties over the years, but this one really takes the Veal Prince Orloff! This was a shocking episode. Shocking and horrifying. But let’s look on the bright side; if you’re going to projectile vomit blood onto any British leader of the last Century, I’d say Neville Chamberlain would be the one you’d want to projectile vomit on. Margaret Thatcher might run a close second, but Neville Chamberlain is definitely the top choice. Am I right?

The Thrill is Gone: The Squeaky Wheel: 

Well, that didn’t take long. The Honeymoon is officially over, and someone should tell Mrs. Patmore that the mystery of life Mrs. Hughes-Carson now knows is: Be careful what you wish for. He squeakily nitpicks, she bubbles with resentment. Me thinks that if smug married Carson doesn’t cool it with his ever so helpful suggestions, and but quick, the Crawleys will have to get used to having a butler with frying pan imprints on his forehead. Just sayin’. If Carson and Mrs. Carson don’t watch out, they could end up going from love’s young dream to a bicker-a-palooza that rivals Sprat vs Denker. Poor Sprat has well and truly lost his mojo. Once upon a time he was a fabulously bitchy queen of psychopathically epic proportions. Now he’s just an old lady’s drudge, (and that old lady is lowdown Denker, not Her Ladyship). Theirs is an ongoing border dispute which (at this point) I’d like to see fought with dueling pistols at ten paces. But we’ve got four episodes left so hope springs eternal.

Bringing Home to the Bacon: Musical Pairs: 

For years, with the exception of the Bateses, the whole of the downstairs was single. Now suddenly, it seems like the music stopped and everyone sat down with a partner – or is maneuvering towards one. When the piano sounds its last note this final season, will everyone be paired up? That would be rather tidy. It’s moving day and Mr. Mason just took over Yew Tree Farm. Now that he’s there, he wants daughter Daisy to live with him, but she is hesitant. Mrs. Patmore, on the other hand, might not be so hesitant to get her feet under the table. She just might be hoping Mr. Mason can solve the mystery of life for her, and she makes her move. She hopes to seduce him with a picnic hamper (Hey, it worked on Mr. Tufton.), but Daisy may not like that. She’s never had to share her Mr. Mason before, not even with William. Also jumping on the Mason train is Andy who, in a diving save, kept Lady Mary’s second thoughts about Mr. Mason’s age and strength from upending this happy ending. It turns out Andy wants to learn to be a pig farmer, though might it be just a little bit because it brings him closer to Daisy? Might these four crazy kids all end up sharing a farmhouse together? What a wacky sitcom spin-off would that be! In other timid twosome news: The date for Baxter’s court testimony approaches and Anna and Bates, with their vast experience with the judicial system, try to offer advice, as Baxter and Molesley shyly draw ever so slightly closer. They even share a sweet little joke at the courthouse. But the trial comes and goes and is anti-climactic for Baxter and for us. We didn’t get to see Mr. Coyle, or see Baxter tangle with him. Now he becomes just like Madge, another phantom who slopes off into the mists of time without so much as a hello. Harrumph! All this fear and loathing was caused by an unseen enemy, like a child’s monster in the closet. Fear of the power of talk has held so many lives hostage here!

See Spot Run: The Spy Who Just Wanted to be Friends With Me:

This week, we’ve secretly replaced our regular evil Thomas with Folger’s Crystals. Let’s see if anyone notices. Yes, suddenly Thomas is nice again. I’m starting to think his problem isn’t really an inbred malevolence; it’s just a bad case of PMS. Maybe all he needs is for Mrs. Patmore to keep some Chunky Monkey in the fridge. One thing hasn’t changed — regardless of his mood, he still keeps trying to befriend Andy, but Andy keeps swatting him away. Even the Bateses do an about face and speak up for Thomas, telling Andy that Thomas only means to be friendly. Andy bears him no ill will, he just gives him the heebeejeebees so he’ll maintain his distance from Barrow Boy, thank you very much. But after Andy returns from Mr. Mason’s farm with a stack of pig porn, Thomas uses his super outsider observational powers for good and discovers a big secret: Andy Lou Who cannot read! Thomas offers to teach Andy to read but Andy is fearful of humiliation. (He knows how those servants can talk!) Thomas offers to keep their lessons a secret, so desperate Andy accepts his offer of help, and just like that Thomas’ tiny heart grows three sizes. This offer of help from Thomas could not have come at a more opportune time for Andy Lou because it seems as if he is looking to court Daisy. And if he wants to be in a relationship with Daisy, I’m thinking there are quite a few self-help books in his future. Books like, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Indecisiveness But Couldn’t Decide Whether Or Not to AskMen Are From Thirsk, Women Are From Ripon, and, of course, the very useful, The 7 Habits of Highly Over-Reactive People which, my guess is, he’ll need sharpish because if Daisy discovers these secret meetings with Thomas, she will inevitably jump to the wrong conclusion (as hilarity ensues).

If You’re Happy And You Know It: Shine On Bad Harvest Moon:

Yes, you heard that right: happyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappy. Happyhappyhappy. You might have picked up that the Bateses are happy because he won’t shut up about it. What have I told them about making pronouncements about how happy they are? It’s almost as if they are fictional characters on a TV show and cannot hear me when I speak to them. I don’t get it. Sigh. On the plus side, it looks like Anna at least understands the concept of the jinx. ‘Bad harvest’ is apparently the Yorkshire Semitically-impaired equivalent of ‘kine hora, pooh-pooh’. Let’s hope it works. There is a theory out there (that I just invented) that there are two types of Downtonians: Those who do not like it when the Bateses are unhappy, and those who prefer it when they are. I’m not sure which of those demographics is hiding under the bed right now. Fortunately, Anna has an innate understanding and acceptance of Mary’s nature – that she has a sense of her own importance, and she is what she is (a descendant of Popeye) – that I believe will carry her through whatever may lie ahead. And the Bates will continue to be happy after the birth of their son, Norman. Happy!

Sunday, Bloody Sunday: Captain, My Captain:

The Dow G knows where all the bodies are buried and she knows just when to dig them up for best effect. Neville Chamberlain comes to Downton to appease Violet and demonstrate why he couldn’t stand up to Hitler. All she had to do was hint about his youthful Picadilly hijinks with his brother-in-law and he folded like a cheap card table. And what he walked into at the dinner party was a full-on bare knuckle fight.  It was like one of those Real Housewives shows, minus the botox and table flipping. But here’s the thing: All this time, while everyone’s been arguing over the hospital, no one thought to insist to Robert that he see a doctor about these pains he’s been having? Would it be impertinent to note that the effect of Robert’s episode was pretty much the same as what Branson wanted to do to that General back in season 2? Just thought I’d mention it. If all this fighting over the Yorkshire takeover, prevented the hospital from having a treatment in place that Robert needed, and he dies as a result, well, I cannot even imagine the repercussions. He’ll be another Lady Sybil, sacrificed on the altar of aristocratic hubris. Let’s hope he fares better.

FYI: Horace de Vere Cole was a real person, a real prankster and eccentric, and Neville Chamberlain’s brother-in-law. He was also a friend of Virginia Woolf, (which means, in Downton terms, he might have been an acquaintance of Michael Gregson too). The trench dug across Picadilly was one of his many pranks, as was the time he bought seats for a theatrical performance and gave them to bald men, the tops of whose heads spelled out an obscenity that could be read from the balcony above. His practical jokes were mostly meant to deflate the pompous and figures of authority. Despite being the heir to a large fortune, he lost all his money in a real estate scheme and died in poverty at the age of 55.

A Birdie in the Hand: The Taking of Pelham, One, Two, Three: 

It’s another fabulous jaunt down to London for Edith. She finds her Lady Editor, a fellow Victorian baby, which inspires their first joint project, all about their generation becoming modern women and the price they (and the farmer’s wives who crossed their paths) have paid. Quite brilliant. That editorial success is followed by a hot date/not date with Brancaster Birdie. Edith gets racy and invites him to come up to her place to see her etchings, if you know what I mean. He is smitten. Before they head off for dinner and dancing they pause to share a first kiss, so they can digest their food better. But the dancing actually began long before they got to the Café de Paris: They are easy in each other’s company, sharing their hopes and dreams and fears. Edith’s dream, is to move away from Downton, which is now owned by her evil sister; Birdie’s fear is that he thinks about Edith every waking moment but has nothing to offer her. She thinks he does, but she’s not worthy of it. He’s intrigued. But more intriguing: We open the Lord Hexham file/closet. Birdie reports that he’s more arty than sporty, not that there’s anything wrong with that; that his art involves the young men of Tangiers, not that there’s anything wrong with that; and the confirmed bachelor (wink-wink) will eventually marry his cousin (such a lucky girl). Those clues couldn’t be more obvious if his middle name was Liza. But here’s the question: Does he have an opening in his household for an evil butler? Because we know one who’s looking for a new place. Hmmm… Anyway, everything is going so well for Edith that, uh oh…wait for it…here it comes, rolling down the tracks, a dark cloud with her name on it is rushing in like Billy-o. Edith has no idea the storm that is brewing, right on cue. She may think editing her magazine on deadline was a night of terror, but my guess is she hasn’t seen nothing till she’s seen the vengeance of betrayed Queen Mary, armed with The Marigold Secret. Maybe I’m wrong. But my guess is, let battle commence.

Risky Business: Rough Trade:

Mary knows! She knows. What now? You know that scene from Carrie, at the dance, in the gym? I wonder.

And it all started out so well too, with Mary remembering that she is a youngish woman and going with Branson to watch Mr. Snappy Chariot test drive a bright new race car which (naturally) made her nervous because of her, you know, history with men and unfortunate splats. But as much as she doth protested, she made sure she fixed her lippy before Talbot hit the brakes. “It looks like she handles well”, funny, that’s just what Snappy Chariot heard about Mary when Tony the Tiger was mouthing off at Boodles. For his part, Talbot is a regular chatterbox all of a sudden. And of course, small world that it is, it makes perfect sense that third wheel Mr. Talbot knows the poster child for third wheels everywhere, Evelyn Napier. Why wouldn’t he?

It is a tough road for Lady Mary. She is a Rules Girl, except for when she isn’t. She is a practical gal too; she won’t marry down because she doesn’t want to be grander than her husband, which is unfortunate for her because King George V is already taken. In a way what we see here is Mary navigating a modern world that she is both a part of and apart from in equal measure. She wants her cake, and she wants to have someone serve it to her too. When she tells Tom that she doesn’t want to appear snobbish, but…, or says to Snappy that he’ll laugh at her about not being in a pub much, it belies a self-consciousness, insecurity, and awareness of her limitations in Mary.  It is almost like she knows she is navigating the new kind of foreign landscape, and she knows she is what she is, and also knows that what she is is now often an object of ridicule and anger. It’s kind of a fun house mirror for her. It’s like the time when Branson’s brother came to visit and wouldn’t come upstairs, and he made a remark and everyone laughed and it startled her, like maybe they were laughing at her. Her place in the scheme of things was different than she thought it was, even in her own home, where she is surrounded by these people who actually have more power than they realize, who might wish her ill. It was unsettling. She’s not as cool and secure as she likes to appear. That cold and unfeeling exterior covers a bundle of insecurities and a life that has always been moored in place by the heavy weight of great expectation. But there are things that she has always known for sure: She always knew for sure that Carson and Anna were on her side, that they were her trusted confidants, that they could be trusted with her deepest secrets, with her very heart. Then in one moment Violet gave away the store. If she now finds that they were lying to her, not only is there no safe love, there’s no safe anything.

How will Mary take, not only this new information, but the fact that she might be the only person who didn’t know (which had to require effort)? When she realizes that everyone else knew about Marigold, but not only kept it secret, that they kept it secret from her because they thought she would use it as a weapon against Edith, will it make her question why they feel that way? Will it make her look inward to question why everyone felt the need to protect Edith from her? Or will it make her go scorched earth on everyone in her path? Will it be reflection or vengeance? And here is where a thread from the past, that has always been left hanging, might come into play: While we saw Mary confront Edith about her letter to the Turkish Embassy, that letter that changed so much of the course of Mary’s life, we never saw Mary tell anyone else about it and have never heard anyone else mention it. Is it possible that Mary never told anyone else about Edith’s letter, that her own shame kept her quiet? That letter and its repercussions must be one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ of Mary’s life. It even shortened the time she had to spend with Matthew – and Edith is responsible for it. While everyone was protecting poor pitiable Edith, Mary, the girl who everyone thinks of as having everything, was the one who needed protecting. From Mary’s perspective, it was she who’s been hurt the most, and by Edith. Her bitter sister, who decided to become the moral police, only to hurt her, and when confronted, delivered that memorable line, “they needed to know how their countryman died, in the arms of a slut!” (which must still ring in Mary’s ears), is hiding a secret of her own. Ah, the irony. Will she now unleash the Kraken and use this to get revenge on Edith?

And what about Anna? Mary’s, “Is that all you want to say?” was rather chilling, wasn’t it? Like she was giving her one last chance to come clean. A betrayal by Anna would cut her to the core. Will she punish Anna for keeping this from her? Is this the end of their special relationship? As she sits at her mirror, Mary looks a bit like the evil queen from Snow White right about now. I am not one to panic, but I’m thinking everyone should stock up on batteries and water. This just might be some storm!

The Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. If I withdrew my friendship from everyone who had spoken ill of me, my address book would be empty.
  1. You’ve read too many novels. You’ve seen too many moving pictures.
  1. When we unleash the dogs of war we must go where they take us.
  1. On the contrary, I have a clarity of vision that allows me to resist a housemaid’s trap of sentimentality.
  1. I was trained in a hard school and I fight accordingly.

Note: I have to say I debated on whether to include this line, “From this house you must go forthwith” because it was surely a good one. But even though I did not include it in the top 5, I think that one of my goals for the week will be to demand that someone do something ‘forthwith’. Who that person will be I have no idea. Likely just some random coworker. If I return next week with a frying pan imprint on my forehead, you’ll know it did not go over well.