May 19, 2018
Downton Abbey RECAP: The Crawleys Listen to the Wireless and the World Does Not End (S5:E2)
Robert Crawley, a.k.a. His Lordship, the Master of All He Surveys, is patronizing the village war memorial committee, which has made him “patron” because unbeknownst to him, Carson, his butler, the one they wanted, insisted upon it before accepting leadership of said committee. Only now Robert and Carson are having a polite disagreement about where to put the memorial. And this has something to do with cricket because England.
Riveting, isn’t it?
Usually, I multi-task through the dull patches, but it’s tough to clip your toe nails while taking notes for recaps, so I’m going to have to come up with something else. How about a drinking game? Let’s pick a theme—a phrase or motif that will be come up repeatedly. There should be plenty to choose from.
After his committee duties, which consist of strolling around for a few minutes, Robert goes home to hang with the family because it’s not like any of them have jobs.
Edith mentions setting her room on fire. “I do feel such an idiot.”
Mary replies, “Maybe because you behaved as one.”
I text my sister to tell her I’m glad we are not like Mary and Edith. She replies, “If you wrote the Turkish consulate that a diplomat died in my bedroom and then we were blackmailed and the family almost ruined, I’d cut a bitch too.”
Rose asks if they could get one of those newfangled wireless contraptions because modernity, music, fun, and all the cool kids have them.
Robert says no because labor government, everything is changing, chaos, the guillotine.
Speaking of which, Rose, who no longer seems to be getting into trouble the way she used to, is going to be volunteering to help some Russian refugees of their social cast. This leads Robert to goad Tom about the Russian Revolution because even though Tom has been quietly working as Robert’s lackey, he’s still an Irish socialist who might turn around and murder them all in their sleep, especially under the influence of a certain village schoolteacher.
See, Rose, don’t you get it? This is what your wireless will lead to!
And we have a winner! Pour yourself a nice tall glass of whatever alcoholic beverage you choose, and whenever “the wireless” is mentioned, take a swig.
Edith goes to visit Farmer Tim and Mrs. Farmer Tim and the foundling child, Marigold. Mari-gold? Like Mary Gold? What’s that about? Yeah, no will notice. Paging Dr. Freud.
Farmer Tim keeps saying things like, “It’s WONDERFUL the interest you take in her, my lady,” using a tone like he’s afraid someone will wish him into a cornfield. Mrs. Farmer Tim is having none of it and would, if she had the power, turn Edith into a jack-in-the-box. She’s clueless about why the lesser Crawley daughter keeps hanging out. And they don’t tell her the truth because why again?
Mary has a discussion with Anna about Mary’s upcoming dirty-weekend with Tony. She has a book by Marie Stopes—who was the Margaret Sanger of England, including the eugenics—so Mary knows how to avoid “consequences.” She just needs Anna to help her by going to the pharmacy and picking “something” up. Actually, it’s a list she hands Anna, so there will be no mistakes. Despite her many misgivings, Anna goes, and the pharmacist’s wife totally slut shames her even though she sees Anna’s wedding ring. It’s not until Anna says she needs to avoid having a baby for health reasons that she loses the ‘tude. Even Anna is like, “What was that about?”
And what exactly did Anna bring Mary? The box is smaller than a (literal) douche bag and bigger than a box of condoms. It might have been some early version of a cervical cap. Stopes also advocated using a sponge soaked in olive oil. Given the awkwardness of obtaining any form of contraception, this forces us to ask: Is Tony spongeworthy?
Back at the Abbey, Rose again brings up the wireless. Drinkie time! Robert says it’s a fad that won’t last. Didn’t see that coming, did you?
Here are some other things happening to people who are not Mary:
Molesly’s hair is no longer blue, but he still loves Baxter even after Thomas tells him about her past.
Mrs. Hughes and Carson continue to be flirty with each other in a very repressed English way while disagreeing about where the war memorial should go.
Violet accompanies Isobel to tea at Lord Merton’s. It turns out that Lord Merton and Isobel have common interests and he really likes her. This causes Violet’s head to almost explode.
Cora and Robert discuss Edith’s interest in the mystery child. Robert says, “Let’s hope the Drewes don’t get sick of her.” Maybe next week we will drink every time someone says something negative about Edith. But then I might pass out before I finish the recap.
It’s almost time for dinner! What an exciting day. Charles Blake, Tony’s rival for Mary’s affections, arrives at Downton with his friend Simon Bricker, an art historian who is interested in seeing the Crawley’s “Della Francesca.” Would that were a euphemism.
“He’s very brown,” Mary observes about Bricker. Is that a code word for Jewish? Turns out he was recently in Alexandria where there is a lot of sun, but still, is it?
Miss Bunting is downstairs tutoring Daisy in math because 20th century, labor government, everything is different, etc. Rose wants to invite her to dinner for Tom. Robert calls her a “tinpot Rosa Luxemburg” but not to her face because he is a gentleman. Miss Bunting declines the dinner invitation, but Tom steals a moment to talk to her. It’s long enough for her to almost convince him to jump over the wall and free himself from the Crawleys. Maybe Robert is right. She is a dangerous woman.
Rose announces that the King is going to be on the wireless. Let’s drink to that! Robert is now torn. If the King is on the wireless, then maybe they must listen. He turns to the only person in the house more reactionary than he is, Carson. Carson holds fast, saying even a King most bow to pressure, but he is still against it. Robert decides they will rent one—just for the speech.
Charles and Mary get a private moment. She tells him things are moving forward with Tony and she hopes he’ll be happy for her “if it is Tony in the end.” He wishes them luck, which he says they’ll need because she is more clever than Tony. Did he say that to plant a seed of doubt? Nicely played, Charles!
Cora shows Bricker the paintings. He flirts shamelessly with her. Robert walks in on them, but only notices that Bricker is petting his dog. Is Robert stupid or just driven to distraction by the machinations of the evil Miss Bunting?
Baxter helps Cora retire for the evening because these people are that helpless. Cora still hasn’t made a decision and is pressuring Baxter to tell her more about the circumstances. Although Miss Bunting wasn’t at dinner, Robert is still obsessing about her. “I am not having Sybil’s child snatched away from us to be raised by that harpy in an American sewer,” he tells his American-born and raised wife. Even the normally placid Cora is, “Huh?”
The next day the wireless arrives. Drink up, children! Downstairs is invited upstairs to listen to his Royal Majesty’s proclamations. Daisy asks, “Why is it called a wireLESS when there’s so many wires?” There is more banter about keeping up with the times, which are a-changin’, in case you haven’t heard. Then in probably the best moment of the show—the one that feels like real history but in a dramatic rather than “educational television” way—everybody stands for the national anthem. Robert announces, “The King on the wireless.”
Cheers! I don’t mean everybody applauds. I meant it’s time to have another drink.
Meantime, one Mary Crawley is checking into the Grand Hotel in Liverpool (Isn’t that an oxymoron?). Tony is already there and, being a super-suave man of the world, has arranged for connected rooms. Doing his best Austin Powers, he tells Mary, “We’ll make love all night and for as long as either of us have any stamina left.”
Back at the Abbey, it’s a good day. Music is playing on the wireless. Please fill up your glass for a final toast. Edith hasn’t burned down the house. Daisy is looking forward to a future of possibilities. Molesly is still standing by Baxter. Mrs. Hughes and Carson seem downright giddy, and Carson is now in agreement with her about where to put the memorial. What could go wrong?
Someone arrives to see Carson and Mrs. Hughes. It’s the police. They are there about Lord Gillingham’s unfortunate valet what got himself killed shortly after visiting Downton. Seems there’s a witness…
Mrs. Hughes looks worried.
Next week involves more about Rose’s Russians. Let’s plan for a vodka party. Nostrovia!