'Downton Abbey': Let's Discuss Series 4, Episode 5

Gasp! Jazz at Downton Abbey! (Photo: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE)
Gasp! Jazz at Downton Abbey! (Photo: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE)

Previously, on Downton AbbeyBates bullies Mrs. Hughes into telling him what happened to Anna. Mrs. Hughes does, but also lies a little bit because we’re all afraid that Bates might go on a rampaging murder spree at the drop of a hat.  Cora gets a new ladies’ maid who seems to owe Thomas a favor. Robert does some complicated financial lending to help a tenant keep their farm. Alfred takes his Top Chef test.  Evelyn Napier from Series 1 reappears and is a much more attractive boyfriend option for Mary than Stalker Tony. Edith makes a secret trip to the doctor, so you know bad stuff’s probably about to happen, because, Edith’s life.

So, this week should be interesting, huh? Onward! 

Yes! The Kitchen Storyline! Let’s Start with That! (Or: Why, Lord, Why.).  Daisy’s super happy that Alfred failed his Top Chef test and is beaming all over the kitchen, passing Alfred hot food first, and generally swooning about. Jimmy disapproves, because Jimmy hates Alfred because reasons.  Mrs. Patmore side-eyes Daisy about giving Alfred special treatment, and Daisy happily admits that it’s because he’s going to stay at Downton with them.  Mrs. Patmore deploys an epic OMG GURRRL face.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if Daisy got any storyline at all but this?

Later, Daisy offers to teach Alfred how to make fish sauce for the soufflé she’s working on, but Alfred, having had his Top Chef dreams crushed, now doesn’t care about culinary learning anymore. (It’s also sort of rude that Daisy’s soooo excited about his failure, like, right to his face, but whatever.) Ivy sagely observes that Alfred’s heart’s just not in cooking anymore, because he failed at something that one time.  Mrs. Patmore says Alfred just needs time to adjust, and Daisy looks weirdly panicked.

Meanwhile, at Breakfast. Edith asks yet again if there’s anything for her in the post, because she’s still obsessed about not having heard from Gregson. Robert says no, but proceeds to mention that her uncle Harold has gotten into some sort of business trouble involving oil leases.  Robert’s surprised, because he always thought Harold was good at business, but since Robert’s proven himself the worst businessman on earth repeatedly, I’m not sure why we should take his word for it.  Robert’s not clear why Harold felt the need to tell him all about his problems, and this is clearly FORESHADOWING of some kind, so go with it.

We also learn that Downton’s going to experiment with farming Tamworths, which is a type of pig, which, let’s face it, ought to be hilarious.  Tom’s excited, Rose says her parents swore by the animals at Duneagle, and Robert’s anxious, because, well, change.  

Bates is Broody. Bates is lurking creepily in the stairwell, brooding on Anna’s sexual assault in a vaguely KILL KILL KILL fashion. Anna finds him there and asks what he’s thinking about and he says she’s better not knowing. OMINOUS. He says it’s not her fault that he can’t stop thinking about it and I wonder whether we can’t just get Bates some counseling or something. I mean, did we all forget that he hasn’t actually killed anyone yet? It’s not like he’s Dexter.

Why Are They Giving the Dowager Countess the Worst Storyline. Just in case you forgot, the best thing this show can think of to do with Maggie Smith right now is to give her a storyline in which Violet may or may not be being robbed by the new gardening staff member she only hired because Isobel wouldn’t stop nagging her about it. Yes, really.  ANYWAY. Violet has noticed that another little figurine is missing from her desk, and immediately suspects that New Gardener Peg is responsible. And by the way, Violet’s butler Spratt is still horrible.

To the surprise of no one, Peg gets fired, because things in Violet’s house keep disappearing. He reports the story to Isobel, who is all sorts of righteously furious and thinks the Dowager’s behavior is disgraceful. Peg doesn’t understand what happened because he thought he’d had a good touch with the plants and hadn’t made any trouble. Isobel, with all the indignant fury that made the Series 1 version of her character so intolerable, declares that she’s going to see what she can do about fixing the situation. How this is a real plot, I have no idea.

Isobel and Violet Are Back to Being Adversaries. Violet and Isobel have it out about Peg at the Dower House. Violet says that’s at least twice now that she’s had valuable items go missing after the boy’s been in her study, so she’s not sure what else she’s supposed to think. Isobel, snorting with indignant rage on behalf of the downtrodden, starts ranting about how Violet values things too much and puts too much stock in material objects and not enough in justice blah blah wash rinse repeat. Violet is now quite irritated, as this is Isobel at her absolute most socialist, which the Dowager really does not approve of. She says she wonders that Isobel doesn’t just burn Downton to the ground and dance around its ashes hooting. (The only benefit of this truly snooze-worthy plot is that Maggie Smith’s expressions here are on point.) Isobel shoots back that she might just do that, if she thought it would do any good. 

Vile Spratt wonders in at this precise moment to say that one of the cleaning girls has found Violet’s valuable little figurine in a cleaning bucket, where it must have fallen by accident.  Violet’s taken aback, but relieved to see it again, and Isobel starts harping on how Violet’s a terrible person for suspecting Peg and should apologize for her awfulness, but the Dowager insists that this doesn’t absolve him for the letter opener that disappeared. Isobel looks horrified and makes some crack about how Violet just hates to be wrong. While this does get us a classic Dowager one-liner in response (“I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation”), this whole scene seems deliberately manufactured to put Violet and Isobel at odds again, because we’ve just had too many episodes of them being friends or something.  And, again, Isobel bending over backward to help someone she just met versus someone like Molesley, whom she’s known for years…well. It seems very unrealistic. Or maybe Molesley’s just not downtrodden enough yet. Who knows.

Oh, Dear, Edith. Edith hangs up the telephone in the hallway, looking forlorn and upset. Cora finds her in this state, and asks what’s wrong. It turns out that Michael Gregson’s vanished into thin air in Germany. No one has heard from him, no one can find him and Edith doesn’t know what to do. Cora says she’s sure that it’s just a communication failure of some type, and if anything truly awful had happened to him, they’d have heard. (How? Unclear.) Edith just wishes vehemently that he’d pick up the phone when she called. (This couldn’t have anything to do with that mysterious trip to the doctor she took last week, hmmm?) She looks super stressed out, and Cora attempts to comfort her with the promise of changing clothes.  Yes, that is a thing that just happened.

Surprise: Alfred’s a Runner Up Top Chef. Alfred gets a surprise letter in the mail, and learns that one of the chosen Ritz Cooking School candidates has had to drop out because he’s gotten a job somewhere. I guess not at being a cook? Therefore, Alfred’s made it in! Everyone tells Alfred how pleased they are for him, except for Daisy, who looks seven shades of upset directly behind him.  Alfred says he’ll have to leave as soon as he can, because he’s already got catching up to do, but he doesn’t mind because this is his dream.  Daisy, who still looks devastated, hasn’t managed to say anything, and Jimmy the Jerk asks if she’s going to say congratulations. Daisy looks like she’d rather eat battery acid and runs away, while the rest of Team Downstairs offers to help Alfred get his things in order to head to London the next day.  Ivy races after her, which is a caring gesture that feels very strange since that they’ve spent this whole season being enemies again, but whatever.

Ivy catches Daisy in the kitchen and says she’s sorry about the pain she’s in. Daisy lashes out, claiming that Ivy’s the one that’s driving Alfred away in the first place. Okay, logic. Mrs. Patmore interrupts their argument and Daisy starts crying. I’m really trying very hard to care about Daisy’s emotional distress at this point, because I like her, but I just can’t – Alfred’s never liked her like that, has never pretended to like her like that, and her campaign of wait until every other available woman in the county either turns him down or drops dead and then he’ll like me is just sort of pathetic. And that’s not even touching on how boring it is.

Bates and Anna Decide to Go on a Date. In an attempt to do something other than ponder the mysteries of Bates’ murderous tendencies, Anna tells Bates that the two of them should go on a dinner date. He says it’s been a long time since they’ve done that, but agrees in the end.

Anna tells Bates that she knows things can’t be the same as they used to be between them, but she wants to make new memories,  so that it doesn’t seem as though all their happiness as a couple was before this awful thing that happened to her. Bates says he’s happy whenever he looks at her, because Bates is basically a prototype for Hallmark. Anna starts crying and says that can’t possibly be true because every moment they share now is shadowed by this horrible thing. Joanne Froggat is just killing this scene, as she’s done throughout this rape storyline, but it’s still terribly hard to watch Anna in pain like this.  Bates says they should have an evening where they don’t think about what happened, and just go out. Anna’s grateful.

The Campaign for Molesley. Now that Alfred is actually leaving, Mrs. Hughes asks Caron whether he’ll be sending word to Molesley that the spot opened up again. Carson’s all manner of snippy about it, insisting that Molesley had his chance and missed it. Mrs. Hughes insists that he can’t mean that, but Carson’s still all offended that Molesley threw his kindness back in his face and didn’t jump at the chance to take a job below his station, and doesn’t care that he did come ‘round in the end.  He wants more of what Alfred showed him – gratitude for the opportunities given him. This is Carson at his absolute snottiest and most unlikeable, which definitely makes him a well-rounded character, but is still awfully hard to stomach sometimes. If the epic eyeroll Mrs. Hughes deploys at this moment is any indication, she agrees.

Bye, Alfred! Everyone downstairs gathers to see Alfred off and wish him well. Ivy says she’s sure he’ll get what he wants. Mrs. Patmore tells him he’s as good as any Frenchman. Thomas tells him not to do anything he himself wouldn’t do. They all encourage him to write of his new adventures. Daisy is noticeably absent, and when Alfred asks after her, he’s told she’s in the kitchen. He takes off for a second to talk to her, even though Carson says the car’s waiting.

In a bizarre twist, Alfred takes a minute to compose himself before entering the kitchen, then cheerfully announces that he’s off. Daisy says goodbye in a breezy way, but refuses to look at him, and it’s possible that this might be moving in a way if I were at all emotionally invested in this relationship.  Alfred says he’s sorry if he hurt her because she’s a good person who is going to make some man very happy some day. Unfortunately, that man was just never going to be him.  Daisy says nothing and Alfred turns to leave. She finally manages to tell him good luck and wish him well, praising him for working hard and knowing what he wants.  Alfred says that it means an awful lot to him for her to say that, and then departs. Bye, Alfred. Sorry you always got stuck with the absolute worst storylines on the show.

Self Righteousness II: The Return of Isobel.  Isobel is back at Violet’s house, only this time it’s ridiculously obvious she meant to show up when the Dowager wasn’t home. Hilariously, she fakes a dizzy spell so that Vile Spratt will have to escort her inside,  and proceeds to begin going through all of Violet’s things looking for the letter knife that’s gone missing. And of course, because this show is so predictable sometimes, she finds it under the cushions of that chair Violet’s always sitting in. Isobel’s gleeful and suddenly (surprise!) feels well enough to see herself out.  In the snottiest way possible,  she asks Vile Spratt to give the knife back to Violet once she returns home.

Sometime later, she returns to the Dower House with Usless Dr. Clarkson in tow, ready to rub her victory in Violet’s face. She says that Violet has to admit that she was wrong about Peg now and, further, wonders why the Dowager can’t see the damage her injustice does all around her. Dr. Clarkson jumps in, to try and mediate the situation and Violet smirks. It turns out that the Dowager Countess has already re-hired Peg.

Isobel is rather worked up for some reason at not getting to rub Violet’s face in all her failures, but Peg tells her how the Dowager sent for him, and apologized and gave him his job back.  Isobel doesn’t know what to say when it’s clear that she was only prepared for yelling, and Clarkson points out that Violet handled that very well. Violet smirks some more and Isobel looks frustrated.

Molesley on a Mission. We’re treated to a long tracking shot of Molesley heading up the path to Downton with a determined look on his face. He pops in to see Carson, and tells him that he saw Alfred leaving on his train to London that morning. So, Molesley thought he ought to stop by, and reconfirm his willingness to come back to Downton, just in case. Carson, however, continues be a massive jerk, objecting to Molesley’s use of “willing” and basically behaving as though he’s the worst person ever for not crawling on his hands and knees over broken glass and begging for Carson and the Crawleys to take him back. Molesley tries to counter this, but Carson continues to act as though he’s being above himself and won’t budge. Molesley looks devastated, but Carson sends him away anyway.

A couple days later, Molesley shows up back at Downton – this time he’s volunteered to help Mrs. Patmore serve the servants’ tea. This is all part of Mrs. Hughes’ campaign to get Carson to realize that Molesley is awesome and that he should stop being such a jerk.  Carson lasts for about five seconds under this new assault and gives in, telling Molesley to find himself a livery and that he can move back into Downton the next day as a new footman. Yay!

Bates and Anna in Poshland. Anna tells Mary that Bates is taking her to a very posh hotel restaurant for dinner, and Mary’s pleased for her. Unfortunately, the hotel is located in Awkward Town, because the maitre d’ can’t find their reservation. This dude is absolutely the worst kind of obsequious snot, and says that he can’t help them because the Countess of Grantham has a large party and the restaurant’s very full.  He goes on about how some of the greatest names in England, including the Countess herself, frequent his establishment. Anna says yes, she knows Lady Grantham actually.  Snotty Host deploys an epic WTF face that clearly indicates he doesn’t believe her at all, until Cora helpfully appears right behind him. He disdainfully remarks that these people are claiming to know her, and Anna starts to say something about not being presumptuous presumably, but Cora’s a champion for once and covers for them, saying that she knows the Bateses very well indeed.  Snotty Host immediately changes his tune and is suddenly ever so happy to go find them a table, and even manages to get some general bowing and scraping in as he seats them.

Their date night continues, but is further marred when Anna looks sad practically starts crying in the middle of a toast. She apologizes and says it was crazy to think they could leave what happened behind for one night. Bates says it’s really his fault, because when he thinks about what happened to her he just gets all KILL KILL KILL. Anna insists she’s not a victim, because that’s not who she is, and she hates that he sees her as such. Bates argues that he sees her as someone he should have protected, but their conversation is cut short when Cora reappears to offer them a ride home.  Whoops, apparently this was the end of their meal, so maybe the two of them at least had some fun. Cora asks Snotty Host to fetch all their coats and he slinks off to get them and his intensely currying attitude is rather fun to watch.

Jimmy and Ivy Have a Plot Point. Jimmy and Ivy are walking home from a trip to the movies or the theater or somewhere that apparently they said they were going together earlier in this episode, but that I must have blocked out because I don’t care.  Jimmy suggests they stop and sit on a bench and then starts admiring the moon, because I apparently also blocked out the bit where Jimmy’s decided he actually likes Ivy sort of kind of instead of just using her and/or being uninterested like he said he was just a couple episodes ago? Oh, whatever.  He scoots closer to her on the bench and they discuss Valentino and romance and stare each other. Then Jimmy kisses her and the music swells and I guess we are just meant to forget that whole bit where he wasn’t actually into her? 

The kissing continues for kind of while, and Jimmy starts to get kind of handsy and Ivy’s really not into that. She pushes him off indignantly. Jimmy, displaying the deadly charm that makes girls swoon across the internet, tells Ivy that he’s been really nice to her – has taken her to movies and dinner and the theater – and he’s never been that good to anyone before.  Ivy asks if she’s supposed to feel lucky for that, and Jimmy says that it’s not right to grab everything a bloke can offer and given them nothing in return. Because Jimmy is gross. Ivy looks offended and says that she’s not playing his game, before rushing off.

Edith Finally Gets a Letter, But It’s Not What She Wanted. At long last, Edith gets a letter in the evening post. She clearly thinks that it’s from Gregson, finally, but guess what, it’s not. In fact, it’s actually a letter from the doctor she visited in London, confirming that she’s pregnant, because Edith quite simply has the worst luck on earth. Robert’s lurking in the corner watching Edith read her mail and she has to act quickly to cover up her shock. She of course doesn’t tell Robert because this is Downton and we’re clearly going to drag this plot out forever!

But, oh, really. Poor Edith. How many more horrible things are going to happen to her? Left at the altar, finds new boyfriend who turns out to be married with a lunatic wife, said married boyfriend vanishes without a trace in Germany and now she’s pregnant after one night together. I mean. Wow. She’s lucky she doesn’t play cards I guess.

Ivy Gets Some Girl Talk. Because Mrs. Hughes has to handle the problems of everyone in the free world, Ivy tells her and Mrs. Patmore all about the end of her date with Jimmy. Mrs. Hughes clarifies that he didn’t try to hurt her, while Ivy insists that he wanted things no man should expect before they’re married. Since Ivy’s ostensibly met Jimmy before this exact moment, it’s unclear why she’s surprised at what kind of man he is, but whatever.  Ivy laments the fact that she’d thought he was just really nice this whole time, when clearly he was just sweet talking her to try and get his way. We’re all just shaking out heads and going duhhhhh at this point, but I suppose it counts as some form of character growth for Ivy, in a sense. Ivy says that Alfred would have never tried anything like that, because he was too respectful, and you can basically see the thought bubble forming over her head as she realizes that maybe she should have been nicer to Alfred, who obviously liked her. 

Daisy, who’s been glaring in the background for all this, takes this moment to interject with some cattiness – accusing Ivy of breaking Alfred’s heart and sending him off to a city that terrifies him and breaking her (Daisy’s) heart by driving him away. She says she doesn’t care that Ivy’s now realized Alfred’s a good person, when if she’d figured it out sooner it could have spared them all a lot of grief. She storms off, and Ivy’s confused.  Mrs. Hughes says neutrally that Ivy probably had that coming.

Hurrah, New Visitors That Aren’t Gillingham the Stalker! Evelyn Napier arrives at Downton to stay for a bit with his boss Charles Blake.  Napier is charming as usual, but Blake is kind of rude and clearly doesn’t like families like the Crawleys much and doesn’t even seem to really think the great estates or the aristocracy should survive. But he is kind of worried about whether England will have a strong food supply if they don’t, so you know, he’s not totally heartless. Obviously, Blake is going to totally be a love interest for Mary at some point, because this is that sort of “we don’t get along but will totally like each other later” kind of introduction that shows like this always do.  Napier makes small talk about how kind it is for the Crawleys to allow them to stay, and Blake is pretty rude and passive aggressive. He just seems like such a lovely chap. I’m starting to think Team Napier is the only sensible way to go here because Mary’s’ other two options at the moment are just dreadful.  Napier is charming and adorable, so I’m okay with it. Mary, who clearly doesn’t like Blake much at this moment, snarks at him for a bit before Cora has the new guests shown upstairs.

Robert’s Birthday Surprise. Rose has engineered a special surprise for Robert’s birthday dinner. She’s having a band come in from London to play some music and have a little party after they eat. She enlists the help of Mrs. Hughes and the rest of Team Downstairs to babysit the band and its members until it’s time to spring the surprise on the family.  If you’ve ever seen a TV show before, odds are you’ve totally guessed what particular band this is already without my telling you. Carson says sure, they’re all professionals and they know something of life in the city and they’ll be able to handle this London band.

Which, of course, is the band Rose just saw play in the Lotus Club, complete with lead singer Jack Ross. The whole downstairs group reacts to the sight of him as though an elephant has just wandered into their kitchen, so it seems safe to say that Yorkshire in the early 1920s was not a terribly diverse part of the country.  Carson actually drops something in shock. Rose and Jack smile at each other, and she welcomes him to Downton.

A Jazz Band in Downton, Oh My. Carson is doing his best to entertain the band members down in the servants’ quarters, asking thoughtful questions of them, such as whether Jack Ross has ever thought about visiting Africa. Carson. Seriously.  Jack responds that he’s no more African than Carson is, so he’s not quite sure why he’d want to go there.  Carson looks flummoxed.  And then there’s actually a discussion about England and slavery, and how the nation once led the world in the fight against it (or not), and I’m practically under my sofa at this point, I’m so dead from secondary embarrassment.  Meanwhile, the band is busy warming up their instruments and apparently the rest of the family has gone deaf or that house is incredibly soundproofed because a trumpet is kind of loud.  Rose comes back downstairs to check on everything, and Jack’s clearly smitten with her.

Robert’s birthday dinner gets under way upstairs. Blake and Mary are seated next to each other and spend most of the evening sniping – at one point he calls her a sentimentalist who can’t face the truth of life if your Swoony Romance Bingo Card needs updating. Meanwhile, Napier’s sat next to Cora and he spends most of the evening gushing about how much he likes Mary and looking upset about Blake and Mary talking.  Tom brings up the subject of emigrating to America again because he just doesn’t fit in at Downton and we all still don’t care because we know that’s totally never going to happen. 

When the family stands to split into their standard gender groups after dinner, Rose stops them and says they’re all going out together this time.  She has the band start up out in the great hall and Rose drags Robert along to see. Robert does an amazing double take at the sight of Jack Ross, but manages to pull himself together admirably (if we define “not admirably” as “asking when he might like to visit Africa”).  Robert declares proceedings “fun” and proceeds to dance with Cora. Everyone gets into it and seems to have a great time. Tom and Isobel dance together and they’re so adorable it’s painful, even though Isobel uses the opportunity to make a speech about how change is possible even at Downton Abbey.

Post Party Drama. All things considered, Robert’s birthday party goes off pretty well. Almost everyone enjoys the music, except for the Dowager Countess who seems to have some problems understanding the whole existence of jazz.  Robert and Mary decide to cover the costs of the band for Rose because they’re so touched by the gesture. Cora tries to get Edith to tell her what’s wrong with her, but Edith won’t say anything and runs away.  Mary goes downstairs after the party to get Jack Ross to send her the bill for the band’s services and catches Rose and Jack kissing in the stairwell.  She plays off the fact that she’s seen them very well, and it’s hilarious. She says thank you to Jack for a lovely night and sorts out the bill business. They both look guilty as anything and it’s kind of hilarious. What will Mary do with this information? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Saga of Thomas’ New Minion.  Oh, I almost forgot, there’s also a boring subplot where Thomas keeps forcing his new minion Baxter the lady’s maid to report to him with gossip and news from around the house.  However, all she manages to gather this week is that Rose is planning something, Carson is reluctant to re-hire Molesley, Cora thinks the Bates’ marriage is in trouble and Anna’s been hurt in some way. Why in the world Thomas would or could be interested in any of these things is unclear, but I guess they have to give Robert James-Collier something to do this season and with no Evil Nanny or Edna, he’s out of worthy adversaries. 

Dun dunnn! Another week, another episode.  What did you think, folks? Where’s Gregson? What will Edith do? Will Mary rat out Rose’s new love affair? Will Tom emigrate to America? Will Maggie Smith get a better storyline next week? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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