Downton Abbey Recap: Series 5, Episode 4

Mary and Gillingham have it out. (Photo: (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE)
Mary and Gillingham have it out. (Photo: (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE)
Previously, on Downton Abbey: Mary’s “romantic getaway” is an epic failure, because all of a sudden she’s not nearly as into Lord Gillingham as she used to be. Baxter gets to keep her job, Thomas is scheming about something (we don’t know what, but do we really care?), the cops ask more questions about Bates and Mr. Green, several more people find out that Mary’s “sketching trip” was really not about drawing at all, and it turns out that the Dowager Countess had a sort of secret flirtation or something with one of Rose’s Russian Refugees back in the day when she visited Russia. Oh, and that guy is an actual prince. Because the Dowager’s life motto is basically go big or go home. There’s a lot more, so hit up last weeks’ recap if you need a refresher.)

This is technically the halfway point of the season, y’all. (Well, if we don’t count the Christmas episode, which will get tacked on to the end of this run here in the US. You get my point though. It’s all going so fast! How??!) Let’s dish this week, shall we?

Rose’s Parents Are Having Drama. During lunch one day, Violet asks after Rose’s parents, because she’s heard that (the awesome) Shrimpie is back in England for a bit. Rose explains that yes her dad is doing some government business or whatever, but that her mother didn’t feel up to making the journey from India twice in one year, as it looks like their post there will be ending soon. Robert tries to ask some more uestions about what Shrimpie’s future plans are, but literally gets shushed by the entire table, so you know that there is an uncomfortable secret brewing there.  

Later, while Robert is out with Mary and Tom to consider an offer on some land near the village, his daughter fills him in on the details. Apparently Mary suspects Shrimpie wants to see Rose so he can tell her that he and her mother are divorcing, a particularly scandalous bit of news as it’s likely to mean the end of his career. It turns out Shrimpie won’t have any money afterward and Robert fears they’ll be dropped socially pretty much instantly. Mary asks whether they’ll be dropping Shrimpie, since it’s Susan that’s actually related to them, but Robert declares that he won’t take sides. Awww, poor Shrimpie! (But does this mean O’Brien will be back in England soon?)

Back to the USSR, or at Least the Russian Storyline: Rose gives everyone an update on the sad state of her Russians: they talk about the old days in the Motherland all the time, glittering balls and what not, but now in England they have no money for food and holes in their clothes. Robert, because he just sucks, uses this conversational shift as an opportunity to both mock Tom for his political beliefs and to tease his mother about her past with the Russian Prince who gave her that fan the servants dug out of the attic last week. Violet pretty much sniffs at her son’s presumption, but this conversation does seem to galvanize her into going down to see the Russian contingent at…apparently Rose has them set up in an actual crypt under a church? Isobel comes along with Violet and both ladies express shock over the poor conditions the refugees are currently staying in, but, again, I feel compelled to stress that they just went down into a church crypt, so I am a bit unclear why either of them thought that the situation was going to be awesome.

Anyway, Rose is happy to see them, and takes them to Violet’s special friend, whose name is actually Prince Igor Kuragin, which is totally something I had to look up because it’s been five years but this show is still so very terrible at telling you who people are.  But, in case you were curious, I’m just going to assume that he’s named after Vasili Kuragin in Tolstoy’s War and Peace and just go with it.  Prince Igor is pleased to see Violet, and says that he knew she would come to see him. She introduces Isobel and he introduces his friend, the guy who fought with Sarah Bunting last week and whose name I just cannot be bothered to suss out. Anyway, they chat for a bit, and Violet asks again after Prince Igor’s missing wife. He says he doesn’t know where she is or what happened to her, that they had been arrested together in Russia but she was exiled without him.  Isobel does her thing about listing all the ways – Foreign Office, etc – that they could attempt to find her, but Igor is predictably Russian about it and doesn’t have a lot of hope. 

Violet Confesses About Her Past. Sort of. A Little Bit. Back at the Dower House, Violet makes several rather shocking confessions to Isobel. She admits that she wanted her company on her trip to see Prince Igor because her presence guaranteed that the conversation wouldn’t get too mawkish or sentimental. Apparently back in the day, the Prince asked the Dowager Countess to run away with him, and Violet – Violet, of all people – seemed to be about to go for it, until the then-Earl of Grantham gave her a photograph of her children and she saw sense and changed her mind. There is so very clearly more to this story though, because Violet hems and haws around whether the Earl’s gesture was enough for her to see her husband clearly. So, we should all probably prepare ourselves for this whole “Violet is actually a human being” thing to go on a little bit longer.

It’s really sort of intriguing, though, so I can’t say that I mind much. 

Does Anyone Care About This Thomas Storyline? Thomas returns to Downton from that supposed trip to see his ailing father that a blind person could tell was a complete front. He looks like total crap to be honest, pale and drawn and even bitchier than usual if that’s possible. Baxter, because she is jockeying for sainthood, apparently, asks after Thomas’s father, and he says that wow, magically his dad is 100% okay again.  Who would have ever guessed?

Thomas then shoplifts spoons from the kitchen with no explanation and locks himself in his bedroom. Baxter stumbles upon him groaning and sobbing behind a locked door, and when she manages to force her way in, she discovers some drug paraphernalia – needles and all sorts of things – that looks like it’s straight out of the post-Edwardian version of The Wire. Is Thomas dealing with his dumpster fire of a life by shooting up? That’s clearly what Baxter’s thinking here, which of course means that will absolutely not be it. 

Lord Merton’s Kind of Adorably Stubborn. Lord Merton ends up at Isobel’s house, unannounced and uninvited, bound and determined to actually manage to propose to her. It’s so very obvious that’s what he came to do before he ever even says anything, and it’s actually kind of strangely cute how awkward and flustered he is, and how determined he is to get all of his words out no matter how the object of them might feel about it. Isobel does her best to get him to shut up (I do hope this won’t be something you’ll regret is a comeback I need to work into my everyday life immediately) before he can make things awkward, but Lord Merton is 10000% stubborn.

Lord Merton – quite impressively actually – insists that he’s not speaking out of loneliness or anything, but is actually you know, romantically attached to Isobel, and that he wants to spend what’s left of his life in her company. This turns out to be a good play, because she’s genuinely surprised by his confession of love, and doesn’t actually say no right away. He asks her to not answer right away and to take some time and think his proposal over. Isobel agrees, claiming that to do otherwise in the face of “such eloquence” would be ungenerous. Seriously, Isobel, what else are you doing with your life? Get a title and a wardrobe upgrade, come on

Edith’s Life is Basically the Mount Trashmore of This Show. Let’s just get it out of the way now: Poor Edith. Edith is already moping hardcore because she’s been kicked out of the Drewe household for the foreseeable future after she freaked out Mrs. Drewe with her constant, creepy presence around their daughter. So of course now is the absolute perfect time for her to get even more bad news. Apparently there’s a trial going on in Germany, of one of the leaders of the Brownshirts, and this is one of the groups that got into a fight with Michael Gregson like seven million years ago or however long back that storyline happened.

Anyway, Edith got a call about it, and the lawyers seem to think this might be the best chance at finding out what happened to Gregson back then when he disappeared. Edith spills all this to her father and Robert, for once, actually behaves as though someone else in the world matters besides him. He even goes so far as to comfort his daughter, explaining that he knows this whole ordeal of a trial and everything will be very hard for her to go through, but he promises that it will be worth it if she can finally find out the truth, for sure, and move on instead of just living in despair. Edith’s upset, and argues that as long as she doesn’t actually know for sure, then she’s keeping Gregson alive and she’s not sure if she can let go of that. Robert pats his hand and clearly feels very sorry for her, because it’s Edith’s and of course he does, because we all do.

I’m sure that if Julian Fellowes actually wrote a happy storyline – nay, a truly happy scene – for Edith the world television population would keel over. I also maintain my standard amount of confusion about the Gregson storyline - it's been years and Edith has obviously has some control over his affairs - how has he not been declared dead yet? How does anyone even let Edith maintain a fiction that he might come wandering out of Germany with amnesia or something? Why does this show handle the passage of time so poorly? How long has it actually been since he disappeared?

Mary’s Prepares Her “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Speech. This is the greatest episode ever. I mean, the only thing that would make this better is if Matthew just happened to wander back in, suddenly not dead and only amnesiac or something. It is everything. I am so happy.  Translation: Mary goes to London to dress shop with Rosamund and to break up with Tony Gillingham. [WILD CHEERING.] She gets a smart new hat and schedules a midday date in a public place and it’s clear she’s like really thought about her dumping plan in some detail.

BUT FIRST! Shopping. Mary heads off to the dress show with her aunt, and of course she runs into Charles Blake there because this show can be so very predictable sometimes. They meet up after the show’s over and he introduces he to his lady friend, who happens to be Miss Lane Fox, otherwise known as Tony Gillingham’s ex-fiancée from last season, who got dumped because he was obsessed with Mary. Which is a fact that Miss Lane Fox is apparently aware of, given her catty commentary. Yikes. Anyway, after that awkward intro, Mary and Charles make plans to have dinner that night, because of course they do.  Do we think Mary is now seeing Charles as a possible replacement for Gillingham again? Or does she just constantly need male attention, no matter who it’s from? 

Edith Continues to Stalk. Despite the fact that she’s agreed to keep her distance from the Drewes, Marigold and their farm, Edith just can’t seem to help herself. She loiters creepily outside the village schoolhouse in a decidedly stranger danger sort of way, just to catch a glimpse of her child. She follows Mrs. Drew and the kids all the way back to their farmhouse, hiding behind hedges and things, and it’s just…really sad. Like, I almost feel bad for trying to snark at it, it’s so sad. Edith looks pathetic and forlorn and I’m seriously getting concerned about Mrs. Drewe’s general state of situational awareness because Edith is doing the worst job at actually concealing herself or not being obvious about following them.

Despite her promise, she wanders up and asks Mrs. Drewe if she can see Marigold for a minute, and she gets shot down hard. Mrs. D says it’s time for Marigold’s nap and even though Edith practically begs her to delay that for a few minutes, she shuts the door in her face.  Drewe himself slips outside after this and informs Edith that the issue is that his wife thinks she’s unsettling the girl. This is very likely not the issue at all, but whatever, Edith just runs off, crying. I hope they got poor Laura Carmichael like the BEST waterproof mascara possible this year. 

Meanwhile – and this is clearly going to end so very badly – Mary has informed Rosamund about Edith’s obsession with the Drewe child. Rosamund, who is as sharp as her mother is about people, seems to immediately jump on the fact that this is not in any way a random kid that her niece has gone nuts over. 

Mary and Charles Have a Heart to Heart. Mary lets Charles Blake take her out to dinner because she’s never going to be one to refuse to spend time with someone who’s going to tell her how great she is all the time, I guess. They make small talk for a bit before Charles admits that he’s not exactly dying of a broken heart because he lost out in the sweepstakes for her affection. Mary smirks and says she can only hope that Tony Gillingham will feel the same as well. Blake looks shocked for a minute and then seems puzzled by Mary’s general existence, which is a feeling that I imagine most viewers share this season. (I’ll freely admit that I miss the old Mary or, rather, the Mary she was when Matthew was in the picture, quite a bit.)

Charles wants to know what Gillingham did wrong and Mary can’t exactly answer him. (Which leads me to suspect that the actual answer is some vein of “He’s terrible in bed,” but I guess that might be pushing things a bit far even in this clearly more adventurous season.) Anyway, Mary says she’s very fond of Gillingham, but doesn’t want to be with him romantically. (Her actually line: “I want him to be the godfather of my children, just not their father” is so very wrong on so many levels that I want to file it away in my brain on the off chance I can find an excuse to use it in real life. Who even ever thinks that about an ex? So awkward.) Mary also admits that she doesn’t think Gillingham will take the news that she’s not interested as well as Blake did, but she doesn’t seem to be too terribly worried about it either way. 

Mr. Bricker is Awfully Persistent. For some reason – and this is possibly because he can’t take no for an answer or maybe it’s just because Richard E. Grant has a multi-episode contract, I’m not sure – Simon Bricker has decided to come back out to Downton Abbey for another visit. Ostensibly, this is to do some more research or something on the Della Francesca painting the Crawleys’s own, but it’s clearly just an opportunity to see Cora again. Robert’s unhappy about it and has taken to referring to Bricker as he’s wife’s “ghastly art dealer” but since he’s never really apologized for basically calling her an idiot last week, I’d say Robert can go jump. In fact, he even doubles down on it, noting again how utterly unbelievable he finds it that Cora thinks that he can possibly want to discuss the finer points of art with someone like her. Cora, sadly, does not punch her husband in the face for this, but I live in hope.

When Bricker arrives he seems pleased to see Cora and even makes noises about staying an extra day or so for a visit, despite the fact that it’s incredibly obvious that Robert in no way wants him there. Idiot or just generally unflappable? It’s hard to tell.  Cora takes him around one of their art rooms again and they discuss the paintings some more before Bricker just can’t seem to help himself and goes on about how everything is beautiful at Downton and so is its mistress and Cora blushes and it’s sort of really cute actually and I wonder how I’d feel about this entire business if this season weren’t actively doing its best to make me dislike Robert. But for the moment, I am firmly on the side that says Cora deserves someone around who appreciates her. 

Yes: Shrimpie is Back! Shrimpie arrives at Downton for a visit and, as a new character on the scene, immediately starts having intense heart to heart chats with everyone beause it’s plot exposition and it has to go somewhere. Violet enlists his help and connections in her latest project – tracking down a missing person. She’s decided to do her best to find the missing Russian Princess, perhaps out of guilt, perhaps love, perhaps obligation, it’s not clear. Shrimpie says that it will be difficult because the Russians who did make it out of the country were spread everywhere. Shrimpie also tries to bring up the impending dissolution of his marriage, and says that he would understand if the Dowager felt the need to take sides in the situation. Violet sniffs and says that no, she won’t be taking sides because while she does feel that the two of them are making a big mistake in divorcing, no one can ever really know all the facts about someone else’s marriage. Man, the Dowager Countess is full of wisdom this episode.

Robert and Shrimpie retire to the library for a drink and a chat. Robert wants to know what went down with Susan, really, and Shrimpie just says he can’t see anyway forward that isn’t spelled D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Robert looks appalled and wants to know why the two of them just can’t live apart like normal marriages that don’t work. “If you’d ever been as unhappy as I am, you’d know why not,” is what he says in reply, and it’s both heartbreakingly sad (Shrimpie is strangely compelling for a character we have met like three times) and oddly prescient and seriously if Robert maybe thought about this for a minute he’d probably STFU about Cora and her art friend because he just has it so lucky.

Finally, Shrimpie sits down with his daughter to break the news that her parents are splitting. He advises Rose to just stay on at Downton for the time being until they get through the ugliest parts of this whole process. Rose declares that she’s learned a lesson from this, and, from now on, doesn’t care how eligible or rich some guy is if she doesn’t love him, because she doesn’t want to end up trapped and miserable like her parents. She says she’s not going to be bullied on this issue and wants her father to promise to back her up on this, no matter who she ends up wanting to be with. Shrimpie sighs and says he’s in no position to give advice or orders about marriage and this seems kind of like a mistake actually if we think about Rose’s previous poor judgment about men and relationships generally. But, Shrimpie seems to mostly agree and this makes Rose happy and you can start placing your bets now on what kind of “unsuitable” match she’s about to meet in the next couple of episodes, because you know it’s coming. 

I’m Going to Need “Serial” Season 2 to Explain This Green Story to Me.  Mary gives Anna a note to deliver to Gillingham, specifying where she wants to meet up for their breakup speech. Anna does not just pop this note in a post box or have any of the various servants around Rosamund’s house take it round or anything like that because that would be a logical decision and we can’t let boring things like logic get in the way of drama. Instead, Anna decides to take the note over there herself, and use the opportunity to basically skulk all around the neighborhood, looking at various things for no discernable reason.

Which, you’d think would just be a not big deal, except apparently a plainclothes policeman has also made it his business to hang out at the Gillingham residence as often ad possible – he’s super creepy and sort of looks like a murderer so you would be forgiven for not immediately catching that he’s technically one of the “good guys”. Creepy Cop proceeds to follow Anna round over the course of the morning and figures out that she’s basically retracing all the stops from Green’s place of employment to the place where he got shoved in front of a lorry. So now the police are interested in Anna of all people and wondering whether either she or her husband might have had a grudge against Green. In short: Anna has basically brought the cops back to her door all by herself, and we’re seriously and legitimately never ever getting away from this Green storyline ever. And I’m sort of annoyed about it – thus far it’s been a complete and utter waste of both Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle, and also it just doesn’t make any sense. How do these police officers manage to catch any actual criminals ever? 

Why is Baxter Even Talking to Thomas? Thomas stumbles upon Baxter in the kitchen while he’s looking for Molesley.  She guesses that Thomas’s father was never ill at all and asks if it’s actually Thomas who is sick. He deflects the question and Baxter posits the theory that Thomas is sick and went away to be treated and now he’s trying to carry on the treatment without anyone knowing.

Thomas basically tells her to mind her own business which is basically the same as a yes, though I’m going to make the guess that this is some sort of weird and awful attempt at early conversion therapy and Thomas is trying to make himself not gay or something and clearly failing. I’m assuming that this is the secret behind the whole “You Can Change Your Life” advertisement he was obsessed with, and it’s all just very sad. 

The Break Up We’ve All Been Waiting For.  I think I’ve been waiting for this moment since they introduced Obvious Love Interest Tony Gillingham last season. I thought about whether I should make popcorn. (Spoiler: I did not.)  Mary – still wearing an adorable hat – meets her current/about to be former well whatever he is in Kensington Gardens and proceeds to break the news to him that she’s just not that into him. Gillingham takes that about as well as you’d expect. Actually, no, not at all. He takes it about seventy times worse than you expect because he not only gets all aggressively shame-y about a relationship decision the two of them made together, he completely just lets everything go and turns into the Fatal Attraction-style loser I always knew he was underneath. 

Anyway, the point here is that still despite Mary being sort of painfully blunt about her wishes, Gillingham still refuses to believe her. Or accept them. Or both. He just can’t believe that Mary would sleep with someone who wanted to marry her and then just ditch him like that.  He calls her crazy and says he won’t accept her decision. He insists that he loves her and she loves him, and that she even told him so while they were in bed together, so obviously all her protests now are meaningless. Mary shrugs and says she thought she meant it then and can’t really explain what’s changed. Tony straight up asks whether it’s because he’s bad in bed, and this is basically the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen, especially when Mary tries to reassure him on this score, which is sort of funny because it’s an obvious lie. She reverts back to the “I don’t think we have anything in common” excuse again, which is also funny if only because she spent most of last season going on about how Gillingham was preferable to Blake precisely because they had so much in common. This show, y’all. I just can’t.

Anyway, Gillingham once again says that he’s not going to accept her decision. He declares that he can’t believe that a woman of her stature – a lady – would go to bed with a man without being 100% sure that she’s found the one.  He says that this is something that the two of them just have to get through and they will, together and honestly what on earth kind of couples counseling even exists for something like this? Mary stares at him for a minute and then the two of them leave the park together and just what on earth did I just watch? This is like five minutes from being a Lifetime movie. So, Mary’s cool with this or what? It’s such a cop-out this scene, to put all that out there and just do nothing with it and I’m not sure whether I’m angrier at the blatant emotional blackmail or the strange lack of agency that Mary’s left with, despite the fact that she’s the one who initiated this entire conversation. In what world does Mary not immediately tell Gillingham to get away from her forever after this? Girl, seriously, it is spelled R-E-S-T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G O-R-D-E-R.

Thunderdome: The Dinner Edition. Because Tom is so dumb sometimes it’s unclear how he manages to dress himself without Molesley physically putting his pants on each leg, he decides that it’ll be totally fine if he invites Sarah Bunting to dinner with the fam again. Why he thinks this after she literally made some Russians cry last week with her epic rudeness is anyone’s guess. Why she says yes to this dinner invitation is equally opaque to me, after all, no matter how much she likes Tom this cannot possibly be her idea of a good time. I guess Mrs. Patmore’s cooking must have magical powers. And of course it’s a terrible idea. Duh. 

It all starts when Isobel asks Sarah Bunting how her lessons with Daisy are going. Robert, who spends a lot of time sort of unaware that he has servants beyond Carson, was only vaguely aware of this activity and asks after it. This all escalates into Sarah accusing Robert of not knowing Daisy’s name, and Robert implying that he’s heard Sarah’s presence is just upsetting Mrs. Patmore and everyone else in the kitchen downstairs. Both Tom and Violet try to shut this argument down with varying degrees of severity, but Sarah, who sucks, tells Robert to just summon the cooking staff and ask them how they feel about it. Everyone is making various horrified faces at this point, but Robert totally takes the bait and puts Daisy and Mrs. Patmore on the spot. As you’ve probably guessed by now, Daisy goes off on an impassioned rant about how great education has been for her and how it’s opened her mind to how awesome facts can be or whatever.  Because knowledge is her new treasure,  etc etc.

Everything is awkward and weird for a minute until Robert – yes, actually Robert – decides to be gracious and admit that clearly Daisy’s lessons have proved successful after all and she seems very happy with the situation. It’s a sort of nice moment, which hateful Miss Bunting decides to ruin virtually immediately by insisting that what Robert really meant was that he basically wants the lower classes to stay in their allotted places forever. It’s an awful, stunningly rude comment – even Tom looks sick, which he probably should when you think about how Sybil would doubtless be so horrified by this harridan he’s brought into her family  home – and Robert finally loses it completely, leaping to his feet and shouting at her to get out of his house and never come back.  He storms off, everyone looks tremendously awkward and the Dowager saves the day by inquiring after Edith’s latest column. Sarah Bunting does not immediately leave, but perhaps we can live in hope we’ll never have to again see her after this? 

So, yeah. There was kind of a lot going on this week. Sheesh. Thoughts? Predictions? A handy flowchart that can explain this Green storyline to me (I am legitimately so lost.) Hit 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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