Downton Abbey: A Very Downton Christmas  

da logo dead dog

It’s a Downton Double Feature! A break up. A proposal. Edith meets a guy. Mary meets a better one. Rose saves the day. And thanks to two unlikely amateur detectives, Anna and Bates get a break


Lady Mary Crawley in a chic red jacket, taupe hat and matching leather gloves stops by prison to ask Anna to help her with her hair. Anna’s incarceration is simply intolerable! What if Lady Mary needs her mysterious but cunning device for the sexytimes? Surely, she can’t be expected to ask Mr. Bates? Naturally, Anna, like Carson, worries that Mary’s visit to the slammer will sully her pristine reputation. Mary tells Anna to be strong, one witness who identified her “talking to” Mr. Green is not enough to go to trial. The way Downton works, this means there’s bound to be new evidence before the episode’s up.


Back at the house, the family, along with their personal attendants but not the children, are planning “the grouse” or maybe it’s “to grouse” over at Brancaster Castle, some swanky joint what Lord Sinderby rented for a week to show how rich he is. Sinderby didn’t invite Shrimpy or Susan because they are DIVORCED and if you remember last week there are four things Sinderby won’t tolerate: stag parties, divorce, shiksas, and any hint of impropriety. Violet is not going because Princess Kuragin has been found and will be staying the night with the Prince at the Dowager House. When asked why she’s gone to all the trouble of finding a woman she keeps hinting is awful, Violet says, “You know me, never complain, never explain.” To which Edith (OF ALL PEOPLE) replies, “You don’t usually have much trouble complaining.” Go look in a mirror, Edith.

Once everyone leaves, Mrs. Patmore allows herself a rare visit upstairs and immediately goes blind from the sunlight. Daisy can’t stop yammering about whether she should stay or go, even though every time she says anything about leaving, Mrs. Patmore’s heart breaks. Shut up, Daisy, and stop breaking Mrs. Patmore’s heart!

On the train, the family discusses the need to be on their best behavior around Lord Sinderby. Tom makes one of his obligatory, “I don’t think I really belong here,” declarations, but Robert assures him that he’s a good shot, which makes up for the poor, Irish-Catholic, socialist, ex-chauffeur thing. After they arrive, Lord Sinderby’s butler, Stowe, demotes Barrow to footman for the duration. Mary and Robert both hint to Sinderby that softening his attitude toward Shrimpy might be a good thing, but Sinderby’s not having it. Maybe he has a problem with shellfish?

Hey, he didn't rent this entire castle to hang out with crustaceans or divorced people.

Hey, he didn’t rent this entire castle to hang out with crustaceans or divorced people.

This week’s Sprout/Denker subplot involves broth. Spoiler: Sprout is bested yet again. The end.

"That's all the recap my magnificent victory gets?"

“That’s all the recap my magnificent victory gets?”

Bates visits Anna in jail, where she confesses to never telling him about the time she stabbed her molesting stepfather in the leg and now she’s worried they’ll use that against her if it comes to trial. Will someone please make this subplot stop?

A visual metaphor for how the audience feels trapped in this subplot.

A visual metaphor for how the audience feels trapped in this subplot.

Over at the castle, Stowe won’t get Tom cream for his coffee. Lady Mary decides this injustice must not stand, so she asks Baxter to speak to Barrow about “arranging a black mark for Stowe.” Barrow is only too happy to be of service.

At the Dowager House, Violet is entertaining her assembled guests—Isobel and Dickie, along with Prince Kuragin and his wife Ayn Rand. Isobel mentions she’s never been to Russia. “Then you missed it,” Ayn Rand tells her.


Ayn alludes to her last meeting with Violet, which Violet claims not to remember. We know Violet is lying because she never forgets anything. Violet definitively breaks with the Prince, sending him on his not-so-merry-way to Paris with the missus. Her reasons? Something she’d expect him to understand, but she’s not telling us.

At Brancaster, Barrow is helping to serve dinner. Everyone gets a main course, but Lord Sinderby gets a plate of what the British might call “fish in aspic,” but we’d know as gefilte fish. Sinderby demands an explanation. Stowe tells him he received a note saying that’s what his lordship wanted. Sinderby yells at Stowe, but he really lays into Barrow—a seemingly innocent bystander just doing his job—calling him “a stupid fool.” What are the odds Barrow lets that go?

da 5.9 gefilte

Not one servant in a family/era obsessed with appearances found this request remotely suspicious.

Robert fesses up to Cora he saw a doctor and may have angina. Then he goes to tell Edith he knows about Little Edie either because there’s nothing to worry about or he could drop dead any second. He does that whacky thing they do and refers to the year as though they were characters in a historical drama, suggesting she not tell anyone outside of the family because even though he’s good with it, it’s 1924. With his knowledge of the future, you’d think they wouldn’t be going broke all the time. He asks who else knows. She tells him she suspects Tom’s guessed but Mary never notices anything Edith is doing.

Stowe is suspicious that Barrow had something to do with the note and makes him write something. The handwriting isn’t the same. Stowe has no idea that forgery is only one of Barrow’s special talents. Barrow uses his charm and gets Stowe drunk and talking.

Back at Downton, Carson tells Mrs. Hughes he’s already bought their bed and breakfast, and even though she hasn’t given him a dime, he put her name on the property with his. Mrs. Hughes confesses she’s been leading him on. Is she about to tell him she’s dying? Is she about to tell him she killed Mr. Green? Is there a Mr. Hughes about to be paroled? Does she in fact have a special relationship with Mrs. Patmore? Nope. Turns out she has a disabled sister whose care she’s been paying for, and she hasn’t saved a dime.

"Im broke as an Irishman, my dear."

“I’m broke as an Irishman, my dear.”

It’s time to shoot some grouse! It looks like both Edith and Mary have found fellas, and thank goodness they aren’t the same guy. Edith’s is Pelham, the estate agent and a poor relation to the owners of Brancaster. How did he get invited? Atticus felt sorry for him. He and Edith probably have a lot in common. Mary, meantime, has hit the jackpot. It’s Finn from The Good Wife, and he’s even sexier with a British accent.

"Perhaps youd like to step back from my daughter."

“Perhaps you’d like to step back from my daughter.”

There’s tea back at the castle, and a young woman with a little boy arrives asking to see Lord Sinderby, who’s talking to Rose and Mary. Sinderby looks like he’s about to drop dead when he sees them. Rose sizes up the situation quickly—extremely quickly, given she was kicked in the head by a pony as a child and is mostly loved for her childlike innocence. “Just tell me her name,” she demands of her father-in-law, as her mother-in-law is approaching the woman and child. Rose runs over and is all, “Hello, my good friend Diana Clark, whom I invited to stop by for tea after the grouse, as you were going to be in the neighborhood.” Mary and Robert also play along and act like they’ve met Diana before. Lady Sinderby asks her little boy’s name. Guess what it is?

Sinderby asks Rose how she knew about Miss Clark. Rose explains she didn’t, and he’s even more startled. “You’re clever, kind and resourceful,” he tells her. He also tells her he’ll be inviting her parents over and he’s getting her a gramophone! Goodie. She tells him to be more polite to Tom and see that Stowe is, too.


Later, Edith dances with Pelham, and Mary dances with Finn, who saw the whole Diana Clark thing from a distance and completely got it. Mary is impressed. This one is smarter than Charles and Tony put together! When Finn leaves the next day, he drives off very fast in a sporty car, just like—oh crap!

You got a fast car...

You got a fast car… Is it fast enough so you can fly away…

The Crowleys and staff head back to Downton. Bates has fled after sending letters confessing to murdering Green. Anna is released, but is naturally worried one of them is going down for this. Mary offers to let Anna go through the front door so she can hurry upstairs, because dressing oneself is so very tiring.

Robert does not have angina! But he does have an ulcer and he’s going to have to lay off the booze for a while.

And now a very Downton Christmas:

Remember Andy, that temp-footman from London? He’s now a perm-footman and has settled in nicely. The children have been taken out of storage along with the Christmas decorations, and he’s helping them with the tree.


“Mummy can’t wait until you’re old enough for boarding school.”

Bates is still on the run, but Mosley and Baxter have teamed up. Bates said he couldn’t remember the name or location of the pub he had lunch in that day, so they stole a photo of him from the cottage and have been checking every pub in York trying to confirm his alibi. (Fan fiction writers—I smell a cozy mystery series.) They finally find a pub owner who remembers Bates’ limp. They even talked about the war and discovered they both served in the same battalion—and wait a sec, Bates really didn’t remember the name of the pub? But won’t this mean that Anna will be arrested again if Bates is cleared? The lawyer doesn’t think so as the case against her is still weak. But wasn’t it weak before? And wouldn’t the police be a bit miffed at these shenanigans? Never mind, it’s Christmas. Now, if only someone knew where Bates was and could get a message to him. (Someone would be Robert.)

Isobel shows Dickie a letter that Larry, his eviler son, sent her. Larry will never ever accept her ever. Not wanting to spend her final years in the middle of a family conflict, she dumps him. Merry Christmas, Dickie.

Tom, Edith and Mary all enjoy a sentimental moment in the nursery, although strangely the children aren’t there. They grab hands at Mary’s request and think of Sybil. Is it possible Mary is softening toward Edith? Or is that what she wants everyone to think to throw off suspicion?

The prince and princess coming to dinner. Isobel will be there.

Those of you who are drinking every time Tom’s leaving is mentioned are probably still nursing a hangover. Speaking of drinking, Robert is totally wasted because it’s the first time he’s had alcohol since his ulcer. And speaking of leaving—Atticus has a new job in New York, and he and Rose will be leaving, too, presumably to raise their children in an American sewer. Meanwhile, they are enjoying Christmas at Downton because the Sinderbys are at the movies, presumably because they’re aren’t any Chinese restaurants in England at this point in history.


Isobel and Violet sneak away from the crowd and have a drink, just the two of them. Violet finally spills on what happened between her and Kuragin. They were madly in love and set to run off together. Ayn Rand found them and, being strong like bull physically, put Violet into a coach and had her delivered back to her not-too-bright husband who never knew she was leaving him. Violet soon realized that Ayn Rand saved her from a sordid life of shame, so she owed her. Isobel asks, “So you never strayed again?” Violet replies, “I never risked everything again.” You go, Granny!

Forever alone.

Forever alone.

Meantime, grabbing a moment downstairs, Mr. Carson finally proposes to Mrs. Hughes. She accepts.

The happiest man on the face of the Earth, clearly.

The happiest man on the face of the Earth, clearly.

Upstairs, Tom steps in to prevent drunk Robert from giving a speech. Mary sings beautifully because the only thing she can’t do is dress herself without Anna’s help. Then Robert gets mysteriously sober and toasts to Tom, who, by the way, is leaving.

There’s more good cheer, caroling and hugging of grandchildren. But a sinister figure is lurking in the shadows! He’s back. It’s Bates. Is he a ghost? Because only Anna seems to see him. As he walks with her to the cottage, she’s worried about the charges that may be pending against one or both of them. He tells her they are going to have a happy Christmas and forget about the world’s most unpopular subplot that everyone just wishes would please go away.

And thus endeth Season Five. Comments? Theories? Scroll down and have at it.

Marion Stein

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

TV Show: Downton Abbey

You may also like...