Downton Abbey: In Which Robert Is the Reasonable One (S5 E4 RECAP)
Thomas is back from London and looking like he may have joined the ranks of the undead. Any chance of a Penny Dreadful crossover? Baxter hears him screaming behind a closed door. We don’t see what he is doing, but it involves tubes, spoons, and apparently lots of pain. Seriously, what the hell kind of crazy cure for the gay is this? Baxter finds Thomas’s magazine, the one with the dog-eared ad that says “Choose your own path” and the picture of a man looking at a woman. Baxter, who’s known Thomas and his family forever, is still trying to be his friend despite his attempts to blackmail her. She expresses sympathy for his plight, and somehow her kindness makes us feel bad for him.
In a very special episode of Breaking Mr. Molesly, Carson has fun at Mr. Molesly’s expense, assigning him tons of extra shit work and reminding him these are all part of his duties as “first footman.” This running joke continues ‘til Mr. M finally learns his lesson and agrees that it’s 1924, the world is changing, and titles aren’t all that important after all.
Mrs. Patmore is still upset about the business with her nephew’s name not being on a memorial. Robert, in a moment of graciousness (or concern about not wanting her to spit in his food), invites her for a chat and let’s her know—in front of Carson—that he actually agrees with her but there’s still nothing he can do about it because of the law. Is this like some good cop/bad cop thing he and Carson are doing?
Poor Anna—maybe she is being punished for “abetting sin” or something. She and Bates have some weirdly cryptic conversation after she mentions dropping off a note for Mary at Lord Gillingham’s. Then the police are interested in her whereabouts on the day Green got pushed under a bus. Hughes and Carson recall she was at Downton, but was she?
Here’s what’s happening with the upstairs people:
Edith is noticeably moping as she always is, and when asked she admits it’s because she’s been driving the Drewes crazy. Robert says, “I knew it,” in a tone that implies he’s been tired of his middle child for years. Edith goes over to Farmer Tim’s anyway because she can’t help herself. Mrs. Farmer Tim slams the door in her face—which she can do to the landed gentry because it’s 1924.
There’s also news about Gregson. Some members of a nasty gang who go around in brown shirts are on trial and may have had something to do with his disappearance. Also, Robert thinks we were too hard on the Germans after the war and this will lead to trouble someday.
Given that the first rule of soap opera is nobody is ever dead until you see the body, and even then it could be their twin, I’m still going with the Random Harvest theory of Gregson’s disappearance.
Violet admits to Isobel that she was this close to leaving her husband and running off with Russian Billy Connolly. When Isobel asks whether she came to her senses “in time,” Maggie Smith does one of those brilliant takes and says, “I forget.” Senile, like a fox!
Violet and Isobel go to visit the Russians, who are living LITERALLY in a crypt in York, but being Russians they love the misery. Russian Billy Connolly makes a speech about how Violet is the same, but he’s not the man he was. They are still totally hot for each other, but propriety is maintained and will need to be as the Princess who was allegedly “exiled” while the Prince was in prison is still missing. Sounds like it would be pretty convenient if it turned out she was exiled by a firing squad.
The adorable Lord Merton stops by Isobel’s to propose, making it clear this is about ROMANCE and not just an old man looking for companionship. He jokes about how he should get down on one knee, but he’d never make it up again. Isobel was prepared to say no, but even she was taken aback by his “talk of love” and tells him she’ll think about it. Then he abruptly leaves because they are English and all this emotion is overwhelming.
And what’s up with the most important person in the universe? Lady Mary has to tell Tony that he was not spongeworthy, but first she goes to a fashion show with Aunt Rosamund, who asks after Edith. Mary mentions her sister has been annoying a local pig farmer and wants to help him raise some foundling.
“Tell me more about this farmer and his little girl,” Rosamund says.
“How did you know it was a little girl?” Mary asks.
Oops. This would be awkward, except that Mary is way too self-absorbed to put it together.
Instead, she notices Charles Blake, the other white meat. Turns out he’s with Miss Mabel Lane Fox, Tony’s jilted fiancée, and that’s not her porn name. Not a member of the Lady Mary fan club, she leaves abruptly for a dinner date. Mary winds up going to dinner with Charles. She mentions she’s planning to dump Tony. Charles says something about “softening the blow.” Sounds like he’s a man with a plan.
It better be a good plan because when Mary tries telling Tony they are done, he insists they aren’t and this is just something they’ll have to work through whether she likes it or not. She doesn’t.
The next night there’s going to be another one of those fun dinners at the Abbey. Rose’s father, Shrimpie, is there to tell everyone he’s getting a divorce. Simon Bricker is coming because of something about the “Dela Francesca” but really so he can flirt with Cora. This annoys Robert, who keeps referring to him as “that traveling salesman,” which I think is code for Jew, and this maybe offends Cora a bit, so when Rose asks AGAIN if it would be alright to invite Miss Bunting to dinner, Cora says, “I insist.”
What’s on the menu? Well, Cora is pretty much offering herself as an appetizer to Bricker. Granny is shooting eye-daggers in her direction. Robert is not pleased.
And Miss Bunting? Oh boy! Isobel asks the “tinpot Rosa Luxemburg” a question about her tutoring sessions with the cook’s assistant, and we’re off. Robert says the lessons are causing problems between Mrs. Patmore and her helper. Bunting embarrasses him, pointing out he doesn’t even know the name of her tutee. He probably doesn’t, but Mary blurts it out to save him. Somehow it’s decided to get Mrs. Patmore and Daisy upstairs to ask them how they feel. Mrs. Patmore is agitated, not about Daisy but about “that other thing” which she isn’t going to speak of. Daisy gives a rousing speech cribbed from To Sir With Love and Educating Rita about how Miss Bunting has changed her life, opened her eyes, taken her from crayons to perfume, etc. etc.
Robert, realizing it’s time for a retreat, apologizes for bothering them and admits to the table that obviously the lessons were a good thing, but Bunting isn’t going to let it go. She goes for the kill, telling Robert (and the assembled party) that he would like “us serfs to stay in our allotted place from cradle to grave.”
Does anyone else have a major problem with the fact that Bunting does not act like any human being ever? That she is an attitude and not a character?
Robert throws down his dinner napkin and walks out, yelling that the only thing he’d like is for her to leave his home and never come back. Bunting stays put, and downstairs the servants are all doing instant replays of the event. Someone at the table tries to change the subject by asking Edith what she’s writing about for her magazine. You’ll never guess. She’s writing about how everything is changing.
The next day, Tom, Robert, and Mary discuss the dinner and how Bunting knows exactly how to bait Robert. They talk about a land deal at Pip’s Corner, which would involve selling property to a developer who would build affordable—or what Robert calls “cheap”—housing. The estate could use the money. Mary and Tom are for it because the heavy-hand of Julian Fellowes says they must be. They see it as inevitable. Robert, surveying all that he is master of, announces he’ll get his own builder. “We will build. We’ll even make money for the estate. But we won’t destroy what people love about this place,” he declares.
They should have been playing “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.
Damn, Robert, do you have to go sounding all reasonable?