Downton Abbey: Code Talkers (S6 E5 Recap)

downton abbey s6 castThis week on Downton bad things happen when people say what they mean. People lose their jobs. Their stomachs explode at the dinner table in front of important guests. So remember everybody, keep those feelings in check, always be indirect, and the sun will never set on the British empire.

Let’s start by checking in with the lower classes.

It’s moving day for Mr. Mason. Well thank goodness the old codger what lost a son in the great war but gained a daughter doesn’t have to go begging on the streets of York, like some exiled Russian prince. As for that unfortunate family that worked Yew Tree Farm “since Waterloo,” we shall speak no more of them forever because that’s what happens when you try to do Lady Edith a favor.

Downton Abbey: Code Talkers (S6 E5 Recap)

Lady Edith was their personal Waterloo, and they were Napoleon.

Lady Mary is ok with Mason’s good fortune, despite the emotional blackmail, because Mason is, after all, a pig man, but then she decides she and Tom should stop in and ask him how a frail old man is going to take a cute little piglet away from its mother’s breast for slaughter without having the mother kill him. Sure, why not tell a proud old man who was wrastling with pigs before your mother even set foot in England that you don’t really think he’s up for the job on his first day in?

Hold the bacon.

Hold the bacon.

When they get there, Mrs. Patmore, Daisy and Andy are all helping him get settled because it’s not like they have much to do back at Downton. Before Mr. Mason has a chance to get off on the wrong foot with his new boss, Andy interrupts and claims he and Mr. Mason have already talked about his coming around to help out with the dangerous physical stuff in his “spare time.” That’s good enough for the bosses, and after they’re gone, Andy tells Mason he wasn’t lying and really does want to learn all about farming, which makes sense given that the world will always need farmers, but footmen not so much. Mason tells Andy it’s a swell idea and lends him some books on the pig farm biz. Back at the big house, Thomas hears him throwing a book against the wall in his room, and investigates. He guesses correctly that Andy can’t read, convinces him he’s smart enough to pick it up, and offers to teach him. Andy apologizes for avoiding him on account of not wanting to catch the gay, which Andy had earlier discussed with Anna, but not directly because the love that dare not speak its name must never be spoken of.

Baxter goes to the trial with Moseley for support, only her devilish ex-boyfriend has copped a plea so she doesn’t have to testify. While she’s relieved her name won’t get in the papers, she’s also disappointed she won’t get to confront the man what done her wrong.

There’s a period of adjustment for Charlie and Elsie. She’s not much of a cook, but Charlie wants to have the occasional dinner at home, so she gets a basket of goodies from Mrs. Patmore, but she doesn’t tell Charlie where it’s from, and it’s still not up to his demanding standards. Then Charlie goes to Mrs. Patmore and asks her to help his wife who’s hopeless in the kitchen. Is anyone else uncomfortable with the special role Mrs. P plays in their marriage?

Speaking of comic relief servants’ antics, over at the Dower house, Violet tells Denker about Dr. Clarkson switching teams on the hospital issue. Denker runs into Clarkson in the village and calls him a traitor. He writes a letter telling Violet about their encounter. Violet fires her, and this time she means it.

Violet doesn't need an anger translator. She's angry enough.

Violet doesn’t need an anger translator. She’s angry enough.

Denker then tells Sprout if he doesn’t convince Violet to give her another chance, she’ll go to the cops about his helping his nephew. Violet caves because she’s too old to break in another lady’s maid. But when Sprout tells Denker they’ll be no more threats, she makes it clear that that depends on him. Oh, Sprout, you should take a lesson on handling extortion from Lady Mary!

Anna is still pregnant, but when Bates gets too happy about it, she shouts, “Bad harvest! Bad harvest!” Then she explains to Bates that back in her village that’s what they’d say to ward off bad luck. What village was that, Anna? Anatevka? Because that sounds a lot like yelling “Kenahoar, kenahora, pu-pu-pu.”

"And also in my village we ate a lot of borsht."

“And also in my village we ate a lot of borsht.”

And now let’s check in with the smart set.

Speaking of blackmail, the Minister of Health, Neville Chamberlain, who’s married to Violet’s goddaughter has been invited by Violet to dinner at the Abbey. Yes, THAT Neville Chamberlain, who in a few more years will be the capitulating Prime Minister known for not-standing up to Hitler. Violet is hoping to get him to side with her on the hospital issue since last week’s scheme backfired. It’s more than hinted that she has knowledge of some youthful indiscretion. What chance does Chamberlain have against history’s greatest monster? (That would be Violet.) The whole topic makes Robert’s belly ache.

Robert, Mary, Tom, and Edith are sitting around the table like they do for one of the ten meals they have every day. Robert gives Mary a message from Henry who called earlier. Does Robert answer his own phone now? Does he say, “Crawley, residence. Gentleman of the house speaking” in his most plummy accent?

She learned from her betters.

She learned from her betters.

The message was that Henry wants Mary to look at his new race car – which is not a euphemism. Tom wants to go too because he loves cars and has a giant man-crush on Henry. Robert teases Edith about having a date because earlier she mentioned meeting Bertie. Edith says “It’s not a date.” Mary says “Of course not,” without missing a beat. There goes that resolution she made last week to be more like Sybil!

Is that a bloom on her cheek or is she just mortified?

Is that a bloom on her cheek or is she just mortified?

Before they go off to the races, Mary tells Tom she won’t marry Henry because she’s not going to “marry down.” I’m sure her grandfather, Mr. Levinson, the Jewish self-made man would have been so proud. Tom doesn’t think “marrying down” has anything to do with class or money. He points out how well matched he and Sybil were. Will Mary get the message? Also has anyone else noticed how Tom has turned into Yoda since he’s been back? A fount of wisdom and a true bridge between the classes. That’s a lot of symbolic weight to carry!

They watch Henry race around a track, something that clearly isn’t Mary’s cup of tea for a good reason which no one has bothered to mention to Henry. Later they all go to a pub, another thing out of her comfort zone. There’s some banter between Henry and Mary about the possibility of when or where they might run into each other, and finally an exasperated Tom tells them to stop making excuses just make a plan to see each other because they obviously want to. He’s the Mrs. Patmore of their potential relationship.

Meantime, in the budding romance that can’t end well because it involves Poor Edith, she and Bertie are talking about Bertie’s employer, his cousin, Lord Something-or-Other. His lordship has “never married” and likes to spend his time in Tangiers painting boys. He also doesn’t hunt or shoot. Here we have a case where the indirect form of address is understood perfectly by both parties or at least one of the parties and the audience.

Edith then goes back to the magazine where she interviews and hires a lady editor the same age that she is. There’s a bit of chemistry there. Maybe after Bertie dumps her, she and her editrix can buy a cottage together and become vegans.

Tom, Mary, and Edith are all running around outside of Downton, so when it’s the five minutes a day the children are allowed out of their cage the nursery, it’s just them and Robert and Cora. Little George asks if his great-grandmother is an Indian because “Mommy says she’s on the warpath.” Oh the good old days of casual racism! Robert clutches his stomach. Are we in for another disastrous Downton dinner? Looks like it!

That evening, Bertie comes to pick up Edith at her flat for what definitely is a date. Imagine that, Edith and a man alone in her flat. How shocking! Then again it’s very flat where Marigold was conceived, so maybe not so shocking. He kisses her, and tells her he thinks about her all the time, but also he’s only a lowly estate agent. She tells him he has a lot to offer and she’s not sure she’s worthy of it – a line that sounds like it came from some “woman’s picture” in the 1930s, the kind that didn’t have a happy ending. Let’s hope before things go any further she either gets him to put a ring on it, or at least gets a Dutch cap. (Sorry, but since last week’s episode I’ve been dying to say Dutch cap, and this might not be the last of it.)

Who's not worthy of whom?

Who’s not worthy of whom?

Is it Friday already? Time for the big dinner with the very special guest. Violet latches onto Chamberlain as soon as he walks through the door. She talks about how long she’s known him, hinting at whatever she’s holding over him. Isobel comes right up, and being Isobel gets directly to the point. She’s there to discuss the hospital. Tom rescues Chamberlain by offering him a drink. When the hospital comes up, Violet asks him, “Don’t you enjoy a good fight?” He tells her he’s not sure he does. History will prove he really doesn’t.

Can't we all just get along?

Can’t we all just get along?

Then the shouting starts. Robert stands up, starting to call for order in the house, and suddenly he’s projectile vomiting blood, which in addition to being disgusting is totally gauche and not what one does. Looks like this hospital thing really is a war, and Robert is collateral damage. That’s what comes from letting the women run things.

It’s a good thing Dr. Clarkson is there! As they wait for the ambulance, Robert tells Cora, “If this is it, I’ve loved you very much.” Fortunately, he doesn’t also decide to confess that little dalliance with the maid a few seasons ago. Downstairs, Carson’s in shock. In another bit of speechifying because this is a show that won’t let us figure anything out for ourselves, Mrs. Patmore says, “Everything he’s believed in has proven itself mortal.”

Let’s hope that Robert’s death isn’t the change we’ve been waiting for.

As Chamberlain is leaving, Cora tells him he needs to let the new hospital system go through and that’s that. She tells Violet she doesn’t have any more time for this nonsense or the dishonesty – by which she means setting up the dinner, but also other things. Violet thinks she’s still mad about not telling her about Marigold. Mary, a few steps behind in the hallway, overhears that part. Uh-oh.

Mary, Edith, and Cora all go off to the hospital. Mary calls Carson to let him know they did an emergency gastrectomy, and Robert is resting (and not in a Monty Python parrot kind of way).

When Mary and Edith get home, Edith goes to “check on the children.” Anna has been waiting up for Mary because even though she’s had a bunch of miscarriages, and it’s the middle of the night, heaven forbid her ladyship has to pull down a zipper. She asks Anna (who knows things) if there’s talk in the servants’ hall about Marigold. Anna says people say she’s a very lucky little girl. Mary asks her if that’s all she wants to say. Anna pauses and asks, “What else should I say?”

Mary already knows that Anna is a vault and wouldn’t tell anyone about Mary’s Dutch cap if they put her on the rack. (And wouldn’t Mary’s Dutch Cap be a great band name?) She probably also knows Anna well enough to know when she’s being evasive. So will Mary go to bed reflecting on how everyone kept her in the dark about Marigold because she is terrible, and maybe therefore she needs to stop being so awful, or will she begin to plan how best to use this against her sister?

Guess we’ll have to tune in next week to find out.

As always your thoughts, theories, and speculation is welcome, but if you’ve been to the UK recently and seen the whole season, please don’t spoil it for the rest of us.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Downton Abbey

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