'Downton Abbey' Recap: Series 5, Episode 6

Lady Mary, being so British it hurts. (Photo: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE)
Lady Mary, being so British it hurts. (Photo: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE)
Previously, on Downton Abbey:  Rosamund comes to visit and realizes Edith’s hidden her illegitimate daughter away at the farm down the hill; they both then realize the farmer’s wife completely hates Edith. Anna suddenly, and for no reason, seems to be the cops’ key suspect in the Green murder now, because they are terrible at their jobs. Mercifully, Tom dumps Sarah Bunting and she leaves town. Simon Bricker visits Downton (again) and gets into a fistfight with Robert when he discovers Bricker in Cora’s bedroom. Awkward. Charles Blake tries to convince Mabel Lane Fox to get back together with Tony Gillingham now that Mary’s broken up with him, because this storyline is just that embarrassing.  For more, see last week’s recap.)

Time for Episode 6! (Does anyone else feel like this season is going by both lightning fast and slow as molasses? Just me? It’s so strange.)

Finally: Resolution to the Gregson Situation. Since it’s been over a year – maybe, more? I’ve lost track – since Edith’s former married boyfriend left the country to divorce his wife and subsequently vanished in Germany, it seems, strange that we’re only now discovering what really happened to him. It’s unclear why anyone – even Edith at this point – thought that he was still alive, but apparently that is in fact the case and now there’s been an official investigation to determine he’s not.  (Mary, ever heartless, actually has the best response to this entire situation: But what did she think he was doing? Living in a tree?)

Anyway, Edith’s editor comes to Downton in order to give her the official word that Gregson is dead, having been killed during the “Bierkeller Putsch” in Munich in 1923, a violent event which saw Adolf Hitler try to seize control of the city and for which he ultimately received a sentence of five years in prison. (See the shadow of World War II in the distance, y’all?) Gregson has also left Edith his publishing company in his will.  How in the world Edith gets to inherit his business when, technically, Gregson still has a wife who is…somewhere, is a mystery to me, and it’s the sort of dangling plot thread that rankles if you think about it too hard. What happened to Mrs. Gregson anyway? Is she just locked in an attic somewhere still?  Is it weird that it super annoys me that we’re clearly never going to find that out? 

This is Why We Don’t Do Favors for People, Kids. One morning, Anna forgets her button box at home and has to send Bates to fetch it. So, of course, this means Bates ends up going through one of Anna’s drawers and discovering the hidden adult activities supplies and guidebook to preventing pregnancy that Mary’s forced Anna to stash at their house. It’s super awkward. And Bates, because he is a walking representation of a Bronte novel, immediately assumes the worst, that the presence of these items means that Anna doesn’t want to have kids with him. (I mean, not the worst guess in the world considering we’ve all wondered if he murdered someone twice now, but whatever.)

Anyway, Bates sits on this information and basically spends the whole day brooding about it, because that’s how he deals with literally everything. Anna’s busy being amazingly sympathetic about the Edith situation because she's really suffering, even though her family won’t acknowledge the death publically since he was no relation and has been dead over a year. Bates sits through all this, brooding, before finally telling her what he found in their drawers instead of her button box. He’s sort of weirdly accusatory about it, so it’s actually kind of awesome that Anna gets mad about him digging through her stuff without asking. Yeah, Anna! Bates, because he hasn’t been awesome since, like, Season 2, insists that Anna has no right to be angry at him for snooping, not when she’s been telling him how she’s longing for a child but actively working to prevent having one behind his back. Anna just gets angrier and says it’s not like that at all, but she doesn’t immediately rat out Lady Mary either, because Anna is hands down the best person on this show and way too good for all these people. The two get interrupted mid-argument and Anna storms off. 

Robert Crawley: Still a Big Jerk. Robert, meanwhile, is handling his marriage issues with the same sharp acumen that he runs his business affairs. Which means that he’s still peeved about the Bricker situation from last week and sleeping in his dressing room alone – despite the fact that Cora’s apologized and it’s not like his own relationship track record is super sterling. (Remember that housemaid from Season 2?)

Cora basically tells Robert that he’s being an idiot, when Bricker himself told him that he wasn’t in Cora’s room by her invitation or anything like that. She reiterates that nothing happened between them, but Robert, who sucks, is still angry that she let a man like that step into her private life, a man who just thought he could replace Robert like that. Ugh, Robert is so annoying this season. Anyway, it turns out that I’m not the only one who’s maybe remembering that business with the housemaid, because Cora lays down an ultimatum: if Robert can honestly say that he’s never let a flirtation get a little bit out of hand since they got married, then he can stay away as long as he likes, otherwise, he needs to get back to sleeping in their bedroom like an adult. Wow, Cora.  

Edith Makes Things Worse. In her grief over Gregson, Edith goes down to the Drewe house to try and see Marigold. Mrs. Drewe thinks her presence is basically terrible and says that they’re kind of busy at the moment. Edith pushes, because she’s upset and sad, and clearly has forgotten that in the fictional world she’s created around this child, her behavior makes no sense at all. So no one should be surprised really when Mrs. Drewe pretty much slams the door in her face. Edith, whose situational awareness is epically poor, explains to Mr. Drewe that she needed to see her daughter because she got bad news about her…whatever we’re calling Mr. Gregson now. Fiancee? Man friend? Baby daddy? Whatever. Mr. Drewe, who has so clearly had enough of this mess and probably wishes he’d never met Edith, tells her that he’s sorry for her loss and everything, but he needs some more time to try and stop his wife from hating her guts. 

The Worst Cops in the World Are Back. The Worst Cops Ever return to Downton – honestly why do they ever even leave Downton at this rate – to ask more questions about the Green murder. How there can still be anyone on the estate that they haven’t interrogated about this is kind of a mystery, but this time they want to talk to Baxter. Apparently “someone” (THREE GUESSES WHO) sent the police a letter, which claimed Baxter possessed some sort of information about Mr. and Mrs. Bates and they’re hoping she’ll tell them what it is. Baxter, who is apparently like, bound and determined to be honest now she’s turned over this whole new leaf, tells the police that she believes some kind of incident took place between Green and the Bateses during the valet’s stay at Downton, but she doesn’t know what it was.  She’s super vague, but the police seem satisfied with her, even when she can’t say whether she knew if Bates went to London or not for sure.

(Oh and the cops also spill the truth about Baxter’s jailbird past to Mrs. Hughes, who handles this revelation like a total champ, like always.) 

Thomas Still Looks Like Crap. Thomas’s weird campaign to medicine the gay away is not going well, as anyone might have guessed. He still looks awful – and it’s to the point where everyone is noticing it, from his fellow servants to the Crawley family. Baxter, because she is apparently angling for sainthood, is super concerned about Thomas and his wellbeing, even though I don’t think anyone would be mad at her if she spent all her free time throwing rocks at his face, after the way he behaved toward her.

But, for some reason, possibly because Baxter keeps haranguing him about his health, when his condition starts getting really bad, Thomas does break down ask her for help. He sneaks into a bathroom with her and shows her a terrible rash that’s all over his hips. It looks gross and infected and Baxter decides right there that the first thing they have to do is go to a doctor. She tells him to pack up his syringes and all the medicine he’s been giving himself and meet her downstairs. 

The Gang Goes to Visit Mrs. Patmore’s Cottage. Mrs. Patmore invites Mrs. Hughes to come with her on a trip to check out the new rental cottage she’s thinking of buying. Mrs. Hughes invites Carson along, by way of an attempt to smooth things over between himself and Mrs. P, and also because the two of them seem virtually incapable of doing anything without the other. (Seriously, just get married already.)  Mrs. Patmore agrees, because she’s a nice person, and the three of them head off on their little adventure.

Mrs. Patmore loves the cottage, and is excited about the prospect of having somewhere to settle when she’s done working. Carson tells Mrs. Hughes he’s a bit jealous of Mrs. Patmore and her plan, and asks whether she’s ever thought about what she’s going to do when she retires. Mrs. Hughes sniffs and says she’s not even sure if she’s going to live that long, and I’m pretty much just yelling at the TV by this point because obviously JUST GET MARRIED ALREADY. 

Mary Gets a New ‘Do. In some sort of strange act or rebellion, Mary decides to bob her hair. Apparently, it’s really just an act of attention seeking, since she’s already said she wants to show Charles Blake and Tony Gillingham “what they’re missing”, even though she’s actually the one who dumped both of them. But I guess men for Mary Crawley have precisely two states these days: “Drooling over her” or “Nonexistent,” so what can we expect. Her new hairdo is super cute though and looks a bit like Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Even her stylist is impressed.

Mary then makes a special entrance before dinner that night to show off her new haircut and be showered with compliments and attention, as is her greatest joy. Most everyone is suitably impressed – Rose is kind of jealous actually – except for the Dowager Countess, who basically tells Mary she looks like a man. Edith, meanwhile, is hurt and upset that her sister waited a whole 24 hours after her boyfriend died to try out a new fashion. Mary is her normal, completely unsympathetic self, and Edith rushes from the room and abandons dinner. Oh, Edith. 

Dr. Clarkson Provides Advice. Baxter takes Thomas and all his weird informercial medical tools to see Dr. Clarkson, who decrees that his patient should be fine in the end, as long as he stops poisoning himself with his weird new medical treatment. He says Thomas has only been injecting himself with saline, so it’s not harmful, but he hasn’t been using a sterilized needle, so he’s developed a pretty nasty infection, which is why he looks so wretched. Thomas confesses that he also went to London for electrotherapy, and there are some pills involved, and it’s all to try and make him more like other men. Dr. Clarkson is surprisingly kind, explaining that there’s no drug that can do what Thomas is seeking, and that he just has to accept the burdens he’s been given, and to try and make whatever sort of life he can. Thomas looks uncomfortable, and I guess Robert James-Collier is a really good actor because here I am feeling awful for Thomas again, even though technically, he’s pretty hateful and useless as a character. 

Thomas and Baxter walk back up to the house together, and she gives him a pep talk. She says his behavior proves that he’s a very brave person, and that the tenacity with which he tried to achieve this goal is impressive. She thinks there’s a lot he could do in the world, if he put his mind to it. Thomas laughs at her, but the mood between them has definitely changed. It’s weird. I wish I could muster up some interest in this storyline but besides the obviou - 1.) Robert James-Collier deserves better than this and 2.) I still want Baxter to punch Thomas in his dumb face) - I got nothing. 

The Most Awkward Conversation in the World Continues. Anna and Bates are still talking about his discovery of a secret stash of contraceptives in their house, and it’s not getting any easier to look at the screen without cringing. SHUT UP BATES OMG JUST SHUT UP. Anna finally rats out her boss and says the stuff is Mary's, insisting that there’s no reason she’d want any of that stuff for herself, but Bates claims that she REALLY REALLY just wants to avoid having a child since she thinks he’s a murderer. (Which, let’s all take a second and be fair, would be a perfectly fine choice given the circumstances if it were true. Literally everyone thinks Bates is a murderer at this point.) Anna doesn’t say anything, and it’s totally obvious she does kind of maybe think he’s a murderer or is at least curious about the possibility that he could be.

Anyway, after what fees like a million years, Bates finally confesses that he knows that Green was the person who raped her. Anna’s crying, and Bates continues that he wanted to kill Green, that he’d actually planned to kill him, even went so far as to buy train tickets to London, but never got on the train. He knew he’d hang if he killed Green, and he couldn’t do that to Anna. This scene is being played so strangely, like it’s somehow a romantic gesture for Anna’s sake that Bates didn’t murder someone, but whatever, I’m so over this storyline that I can’t even get mad about it. Just hurry the heck up, show and get this mess over with.  Bates explains that his train ticket – which you’ll remember that Mrs. Hughes and Mary burned last season – was untorn, which would have been proof that he didn’t travel, but it’s missing and if the train conductor remembers selling him a return ticket, he’s going to get hanged. Anna looks happy though, because now she knows Bates didn’t kill her rapist, and she’d spent forever being unsure of it and worried. Guys, this relationship is a mess. A serious mess. How are we, the viewers, even supposed to be feeling about this right now? And that's not even touching on the fact that a whole lot of murderous premeditation and planning went on even if he ultimately didn't go through with it? Isn't that sort of upsetting too? Uggggh. 

Molesley is Basically My Favorite Thing. Even now that Horrible Miss Bunting is gone (Woohoo!), Daisy is still working on keeping up with her studies. She’s reading an enormous book about the War of the Spanish Succession, and it turns out that this is a topic that Molesley is very interested in. He even brings Daisy another enormous encyclopedia volume that contains more information on politics of the war and Queen Anne’s reign. (Okay, this settles it. I need more Molesley on this show. He is so interesting to me.)

Daisy is sort of rude about his offer of educational assistance at first, but Molesley just keeps on being awesome, even when she doesn’t deserve it, because she’s become a pill this season. He even volunteers to help Daisy with her studies, explaining that he knows a lot about history even though he left school when he was 12. Apparently he originally wanted to be a teacher, but his family couldn’t manage it after his mother got sick and this is all just seriously awesome backstory and why can’t we have more of this for all the characters instead of another merry-go-round of whether Bates killed someone or not. Molesley smiles sadly at Daisy and says it’s okay, he’s missed his chance, but he’d still like to help someone else get out of a life in service, if he could. 

The Crawleys Do a Horserace. Charles Blake and Tony Gillingham have both decided to participate in a point-to-point horse race that‘s taking place near Downton. Because there are literally no other houses in the north of England, the pair are going to stay with the Crawleys and the whole family’s planning to make a day of it and watch the race and picnic and whatnot. Everyone’s pretty psyched about it, except Edith, who is still wandering the house like Heathcliff. Rose is especially pleased because it turns out that the nouveau riche parents of that nice boy she’s crushing on have just bought the estate where the race is taking place, so she gets to see him.

Anyway, the race course looks super fun once they get there. The Crawleys and their party have a whole massive tent to themselves, so it’s no trouble when Miss Mabel Lane Fox shows up, all decked out to ride in the race herself, now that they’re letting women be part of things.  She, of course, is breathing, so she also gets an invite to come back with the family and stay at Downton, which apparently really does have an endless supply of guest rooms. Mary also arrives with Rose’s boy Atticus Aldridge, and she’s also dressed to race. Sadly, she’s not able to bring herself to ride astride, even though she wants to, because Violet is present. Mabel Lane Fox snarks that Mary certainly seems to like to pick and choose which rules to break and the girls snipe at each other for a minute about Gillingham, which is pointless because Gillingham is terrible. But, sadly, it would seem that the (awesome) Miss Mabel Lane Fox has decided to try to win him back which seems like a terrible waste of her life if you ask me.  

Edith Has a New Plan. While her family is out at the race, Edith is busy writing a long letter. She’s decided to run away, basically, and take her child with her. She heads to the Drewe house and announces that she’s Marigold’s mother and has come to fetch her daughter. Mrs. Drewe basically goes into meltdown, calling Edith a liar. Mr. Drewe backs up the story though, and Edith produces a birth certificate, which somehow has her actual real name on it as Marigold’s mother, even though that seems like the actual stupidest idea ever for someone who was trying to successfully hide their illegitimate child, but I guess it’s not like they had Google back then, so who would know. Anyway, Edith says she left her real name on it because she knew she might one day need proof of their relationship. Mrs. Drewe starts crying and says she doesn’t understand how her husband can have possibly treated her like this  - lied and used her all to benefit some woman they don’t know. Edith scoops up Marigold and starts to leave and Mrs. Drewe is just sobbing and this is all so unfair and awful.

I get the feeling that Mrs. Drewe’s terrible behavior recently is supposed to make us more sympathetic toward Edith but the opposite is true for me – that poor woman is the only one I actually feel bad for in this entire situation, since all she did was love a child she thought had no one, and no one bothered to tell her the truth. She didn't ask for any of this. It’s all really gross, actually.  Mrs. Drewe gets herself together enough to give Marigold a stuffed animal and tell her not to forget her. It’s heartbreaking, really. 

This Episode Has a Lot of Dangling Plot Threads. After the horse race, the Crawleys meet Atticus’s parents, Lord and Lady Sinderby. They also get an invite to Downton for dinner the next day.

Isobel tells Violet that she’s decided to say yes to Lord Merton’s proposal.

The family returns to the house find Edith gone and everyone’s in a tizzy. Violet, who is no fool, heads straight to Yewtree Farm to see if her granddaughter took Marigold with her when she left. Drewe refuses to tell the Dowager anything, and says that he doesn’t know where Edith was headed, either.

Carson tells Mrs. Hughes that he’s got something a bit strange to ask her, and I start having heart palpitations because I’m like 100% convinced that he’s finally realized they are perfect for each other, but no, he just wants to suggest that they should buy some property together, so that could make some money by the time they retire. UGH, CARSON WHY. Mrs. Hughes grins at his suggestion anyway, because Mrs. Hughes is perfect.  (For the record, this is basically real time footage of me at home during this scene. Let me have this, show.)

Edith, as it turns out, has taken a room in a dingy looking hotel in London, and seems to have no obvious plan for what happens next, or at least not beyond the fact that she couldn’t bear being away from her daughter anymore. What exactly is she going to do now? I mean, I suppose she can keep writing her column, and she’s inherited Gregson’s publishing company to boot, despite the small matter of him still having a wife somewhere, so I guess it’s not like she’s going to starve. But, still. Yikes.

What do you think, folks? There’s kind of a lot to talk about and I’m looking forward to hearing what worked – or didn’t work – for you in this episode. 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. 

More to Love from Telly Visions