'Downton Abbey' Recap: Season 6, Episode 5

Maggie Smith, looking appropriately judgy as the Dowager Countess. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE)

Downton Abbey Part Five- Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 9pm ET on MASTERPIECE on PBS Thomas makes Andy a generous offer. Spratt rescues Denker. A powerful politician comesto dinner. Robert upsets the family. Mary gets suspicious. Shown: Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only. USE ON THIRD PARTY SITES SUCH AS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER IS NOT ALLOWED.

Carnival Films

Maggie Smith, looking appropriately judgy as the Dowager Countess. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE)
Maggie Smith, looking appropriately judgy as the Dowager Countess. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Downton Abbey: Tom returns home to Downton, but finds that he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself now he’s back. The cops want Baxter to testify against the man who helped turn her into a jewel thief and got her arrested years ago and she’s kind of anxious about it.  Gwen Dawson – now married and on a mission to improve the working lives of middle class women – returns to Downton for a surprise lunch visit and she tells the family how Sybil changed her life. (We all cried.) Despite Daisy’s increasingly terrible behavior over everything concerning Mr. Mason, the Crawleys decide to give him the tenancy at Yew Tree Farm anyway. Anna has a pregnancy scare, but ultimately the baby is saved and her prognosis looks good for the moment. She tells Mr. Bates they’re going to be parents, and he’s perfectly adorable about it, reminding us all why we used to love these two so much.

Oh and the never-ending debate over the future of the hospital continues, but the upside is that at least it brings the dishy Henry Talbot to Downton (he’s Lady Shackleton’s nephew), and back into Mary’s life.  (If you need a more in-depth refresher, last week's recap is right this way.)

Mr. Mason’s Moving In. After much Sturm und Drang, Mr. Mason is finally moving into Yew Tree Farm, and most of Team Downstairs is pitching him to help him get settled. Daisy’s pretty excited that the Drewes are finally leaving, and also displays zero self-awareness about any of her recent crazy and terrible behavior. In fact, she’s still being snotty about the new owner’s plans for Mr. Mason’s old farm, because she can’t even be gracious about getting literally everything she wanted. Shut up, Daisy.

Mary and Tom are generally pleased about the decision to give the farm to Mr. Mason, particularly as he claims to be an expert on pig-raising, which we all know is Mary’s secret obsession.

Eventually this topic will probably die down around here, but, yet again I’m just infuriated that no one on this show displays any sensitivity toward the fact that farm is only “available” because the Crawleys have shamelessly used them, emotionally broken them and ruined the lives of its previous tenants. Granted, Daisy doesn’t know that herself – since she doesn’t know the truth about Marigold’s parentage – but if we’re never going to address it (and clearly we are not), I’d prefer it if we never mentioned the name “Drewe” ever again. Ugh. 

Surprise, Andy Gets a Storyline. When we’re in the final episodes of a beloved show’s final season, what we, as viewers, obviously want to see, is some boring new storyline about a random new, recently introduced character that we don’t care about. Duh! Enter Andy the footman. Bonus points if you even remember who Andy is or how he came to be part of Downton, because I sure don’t. His story so far seems to be primarily about actively rebuffing any overture of friendship from Thomas (it turns out the reason for this is that he thinks that since Thomas is gay, being kind to him will lead him on or something), and commenting repeatedly about how awesome country living is. He’s every bit as boring as Alfred from years ago, in case you need a frame of reference.

Anyway, Andy out of nowhere gets a story this week which is mainly focused around the fact that he’s a former city boy who now wants to learn about farming. When Mary and Tom stop by to welcome Mr. Mason to Yew Tree, they express some concerns that he might be too old to, say, wrestle pigs to the ground and/or perform the heavy required by his new position. Andy jumps up and volunteers to help, claiming that he wants to learn everything about pigs and farming, and that he just can’t wait to work out how to fit in exhausting physical labor around his many duties as a Downton footman. Mr. Mason looks vaguely surprised, as it’s not clear that he’s ever met Andy before this moment, but says sure, because he obviously needs the help.

"Clueless" is still the best. Photo: Paramount Pictures

In other news, Mr. Mason also wants Daisy to come live with him down at Yew Tree – he says she can still work up at Downton if she wants to, but he’d love it if she would make a home with him there. Daisy looks apprehensive, but says she’ll think about it.

Baxter and Molesley Need to Get It Together, Already. Baxter receives word from the police sergeant that her Terrible Ex’s trial is about to get under way and she’ll have to go to York and testify. Molesley, who is perfect, says he wants to come with her with for moral support and offers to talk to Carson about getting the time off. Everyone’s very supportive of this plan, and Baxter and Molesley are so freaking adorable together it’s actually causing me physical pain. Can either of these two get with the program here and just admit that they’re crazy about each other?

So Molesley accompanies Baxter to the courthouse and she’s geared herself all up to tell the truth about what her ex did to her and what a piece of garbage he is, but it turns out she doesn’t have to. Peter Coyle has decided to change his plea to guilty after seeing the pending witness list and realizing it was basically full of people who were going to tell the truth about what a garbage person he is. Baxter’s kind of relieved, now that her name won’t be dragged through the papers and all that, but she also feels a bit let down, because she’d worked herself up to finally confronting the man who ruined her life. 

Mary and Tom and Henry Hang Out. Henry Talbot is in the area for some reason, and invites Mary to come and watch him try out a new racing car. She decides to bring Tom along with her, because he’s got something of a mancrush on Henry Talbot and has also rediscovered his own love for cars. He asks is her thing with Henry is serious, and Mary says he’s handsome and stuff, but she’s not going to marry down, and doesn’t want to be grander than her husband is, so, they’re probably not well suited in that way. Tom gives her a pep talk about how relationships can find balance in different ways, and what’s important is that they’re equals to each other, not necessarily who’s richer.

So the two of them go and watch Henry race around a track – in the most unintentionally hilarious scene perhaps ever aired on Downton: that backing music, gracious! – and even though Mary mentions that racing seems like an awfully dangerous hobby, Tom pretty much shushes her about it. Which seems kind of rude, especially since no one seems to remember that Mary’s husband died in a car crash, so maybe she comes by her apprehension about the whole business honestly.

However, Tom’s behavior is not a complete surprise, since he’s busy looking at Henry the way that little kids look at Santa, and the two of them are too busy bonding about cars and driving and whatnot for anything as pedestrian as considering Mary’s feelings, or even if she’s at all interested in any of this. It’s so obvious that they’re going to end up working together somehow. Sheesh. (But I guess it’s nice that Tom’s found a new friend?)

In other news, and to the surprise of probably no one, Tom also turns out to be a pretty big Mary and Henry shipper. He tells Mary that she’s got to realize love means taking risks and openly mocks the two of them for being so awkward about trying to come up with reasons to get together. He’s seriously like five minutes away from writing fanfiction, and it’s kind of amazing. 

Edith’s Adorable Not Date is Pretty Great. Edith gets a note from Bertie Pelham, who wants to get together the next time she’s in London.  Edith bends over backward to convince her family that the two of them are just friends and their get-together is totally 100% not a date, but it sure seems like a date to me.

In London, she invites Bertie to her flat for a drink and some quality time. The two of them discuss their families, including his very rich and titled cousin Peter who owns Branchaster Castle in Scotland, and the fact that Downton and everything to do with it are pretty much Mary’s now. Edith explains that she’s planning to live in her London flat more often, because she’s realized she can’t spend all her life dawdling around in her sister’s shadow in the country. (Random aside: Did we ever determine how Michael Gregson managed to leave all his worldly goods – including this posh and incredibly well lit flat – to Edith Crawley, instead of the wife he still had at the time? Just curious.) 

Anyway, the two of them flirt for a bit before heading out to dinner, and finally share a kiss. Bertie tells Edith that he likes her very much and thinks about her all the time, and it’s all kind of sweet, if only because Edith deserves to have something good happen to her at last. 

Jimmy and Elmo have some moves Photo: NBC

Thomas Actually Does Something Kind. As part of his new Pig Breeding Training Program, Andy gets a pile of books to read from Mr. Mason, ostensibly to teach him pig facts and the basic rules of animal husbandry. Unfortunately, it turns out that these books are basically useless to Andy, because he doesn’t know how to read.

Thomas, who basically spends all of his time watching other people, figures this out, but for once decides to not be a completely terrible person about it. He pretty much forces Andy to admit the truth, but rather than mock him or try and get him fired, Thomas volunteers to help him learn to read and write. He even promises that they can keep their lessons a secret from the rest of Team Downstairs, so no one has to know that Andy’s been faking it all this time.

Andy looks touched and a bit ashamed – he says that he hasn’t behaved well toward Thomas and he’s sorry for it. Thomas says he’s known worse, and it’s all fine.

Well, it can’t be any worse than watching Thomas try and find a job, yeah?

Welcome to the World’s Most Awkward Dinner Party. Violet’s campaign to keep the village hospital under her control continues apace, and this time, she’s invited Minister of Health Neville Chamberlin to dinner so that she can attempt to sway him to her side and use the force of government to squash the attempted York hospital takeover. (Yes, the same Neville Chamberlin who is eventually going to become Prime Minister.)  The family is kind of irritated about this, because they too are apparently tired of the endless hospital bickering, and because they don’t understand how Violet has managed to force a fairly major figure in government to come north and weigh in on this issue.

During dinner itself, Chamberlin manages to avoid making any comments about health-related policy issues at all, and generally looks pretty entertained by the battle royale brewing between Violet and Isobel, who start going at each other virtually as soon as everyone is seated. Their arguments haven’t changed much from the previous fifteen times they’ve thrown down over this topic, though Violet’s zingers have gotten more entertaining, if that counts for anything. 

Unfortunately, right as the verbal sparring about the hospital around the table really starts to heat up, Robert is forced to stand up and excuse himself due to the fact that he’s really not feeling very well. He’s been having strange chest pains off and on for several episodes now, which has clearly been leading up to this moment. And, even more unfortunately, this moment basically involves poor Robert projectile vomiting blood (and probably various other bodily effluvia, IDK) all over the dinner table and other guests.

As scenes that are full of blood go, this is actually kind of a shocking moment for Downton – this is some straight up Exorcist-level grossness. Robert spews blood everywhere and collapses onto the floor, everyone starts screaming, and Dr. Clarkson – who, lest we forget, is actually a doctor, springs into action. Carson rushes off to call an ambulance, everyone is freaking out, and Robert manages to tell Cora that if he dies, he wants her to know that he loved her very much, as he continues to vomit all over himself. 

Fat Amy speaks for me this week. Photo: Universal Studios

Really, show, you can lay off the river of blood anytime now, we get that Robert’s condition is dire. We get it. Really.

Yikes, Poor Robert.  The ambulance arrives to take Robert to the hospital and a shaken Team Downstairs mobilizes to gather coats and hospital supplies for the family. Neville Chamberlin manages to take this opportunity to duck out of Downton, before he can get any further embroiled in this family drama. He does promise Cora that he will let the new York scheme stand and not involve himself with it, because…reasons, I guess. Probably because she asked while she was upset? Who knows. (Who cares, really?)

Cora and the Dowager also have an awkward aside about worry and family secrets that sort of seems to come out of nowhere and have no point. But don’t worry, this scene pretty much only exists so that Violet can mention that she’s sorry about keeping the secret about Marigold from her daughter in law, and Mary can overhear them and start staring weirdly at every other member of her family. Does anyone ever learn any information on this show that isn’t the direct result of eavesdropping?

Anyway, it turns out that Robert’s ulcer has burst, and he has to undergo a gastrectomy. While the surgery is successful, and Robert’s going to be okay – he’s also going to need a lot of rest and a generally less stressful life in the future.  Mary seems particularly struck by this evidence of her father’s mortality, and makes Tom promise to help her take full responsibility for the estate and keep the day-to-day burdens of running it from Robert. She says that they have to make sure her father doesn’t have any more worries, because that’s what caused his ulcer in the first place.

Isobel has volunteered to stay with the Dowager, so it’s nice to see that their friendship at least remains intact for the most part, despite their stupid hospital feuding.

Mary Finally Catches a Clue. After however many months (Years, possibly? How old are these kids?) it’s been, Mary sees to have finally figured out that Edith didn’t take in a motherless ward just out of boredom and/or the kindness of her own heart. She seems to have sussed out at last that Marigold is Edith’s daughter, and is now seeing everything around her with new eyes, from throwaway conversations to Edith’s insistence on checking on “the children” before bed. 

Of course she doesn’t actually say anything to her sister about any of this, because this is an aristocratic British family and they’re all nothing if not emotionally repressed, but Mary DOES ask Anna if she’s heard any sort of servants gossip about Marigold.  Anna clearly thinks this question is strange, because she stumbles a bit over her answer, and that’s enough for Mary to get suspicious about that too, even though Anna’s actual response – that Team Servants clearly think Marigold is a lucky little girl – is a fair one.  Mary goes to bed, but spends a few minutes staring awkwardly into her vanity mirror as ominous music rises in the background, so you know we’re far from done with this plot point.

What do you think of this week’s episode, folks? Hit the comments and sound off!

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. 

More to Love from Telly Visions