Oct 14, 2020
Downton Abbey: A Tale of Two Dinners
Major plotlines are resolved this week on Downton Abbey when Edith plots to adopt her own lovechild and Mary ditches her old boy-toy, but who can celebrate when Robert’s one true love is on her deathbed?
How do we know we are in crisis mode? Violet has actually gotten herself out of the dowager house and meets Rosamund at the train—something that NEVER happens! Granny’s concluded they must tell Cora the truth about why Edith left, even if Edith wouldn’t want that.
Making Edith’s absence even more awkward, there will be GUESTS for dinner. (It’s the day after the horsey picnic.) Lord and Lady Sinderby, Atticus, Lord Merton and Isobel are all coming over. Plus our favorite menage—Charles, Tony and Mabel are still at Downton. Will it be another uncomfortable meal, or will it be a complete disaster?
The family escapes their guests to discuss Situation Edith. They know she went to King’s Cross Station because that’s what the stationmaster said. But wherever could she be? Does it occur to any of these people to look for her at the magazine she owns? NOPE. Everyone is very concerned, except for Mary, who’s already planning to turn Edith’s room into a shoe closet.
Violet clumsily suggests she needs some air and asks Cora to accompany her on a walk, but before that can happen, there’s an unexpected visitor. Mrs. Farmer Tim has arrived and would like a word with Lady Cora. Uh-oh. Cora is more than a bit peeved when she finds out what’s up and that Violet and Rosamund knew. She comes up with a radical plan—find Edith and hear from her what she wants to do. She does not think to inform her husband because this is lady bidness.
What are the guests doing while the family closes ranks? Charles tells Tony for the umpteenth time, “Dude, she’s not that into you.”
Tony is like, “No, man, I am like Christian Gray. Birds dig persistence.”
Dinner. Rose and Atticus make goo-goo eyes at each other. Atticus suggests they might look for Edith at the publishing enterprise she owns. Dresses British, thinks Yiddish! Robert tells Lord Sinderby the Jewish thing is no problem for him as Cora’s father was Jewish. He leaves out the part about his family’s need to marry an heir or heiress every generation and Rose’s having been kicked in the head by a pony.
Lord Sinderby asks Cora if she was ever ashamed of her heritage. Cora replies, “We never changed our name.” Yay, Cora! It’s like she’s just woken up from a three-season coma.
Mabel and Tony discuss her stalking him. Possibly he’s turned on by this, which might explain why he thinks it’ll work on Mary.
Isobel and “Dickie” Lord Merton announce their engagement. There’s a toast, and Violet looks like she has a huge gas pain. Overall this dinner has gone relatively smoothly given the Downton Dinner Curse. Lord Sinderby isn’t so thrilled about his son and the shiksa, but no disaster. The Crawleys decide to push their luck and invite over Lord Merton’s boys, Larry and Timothy, the following night. The last time Larry came over, he spiked Tom’s drink and tried to make trouble, but no reason to think this time won’t go splendidly…
What’s happening downstairs?
Daisy visits Mr. Mason’s farm with Molesly and Baxter. Mason encourages Daisy to continue her studies even though it may take generations for things to change in England, but one day, because of people like her, a labour government will be a normal thing. Yet, another example of the Downton phenomenon of people speaking like they are writing an IMPORTANT LETTER TO THE FUTURE.
Speaking of futures—do Bates and Anna have one? Mrs. Hughes asks Mary about the train ticket in Bates’ coat pocket. Mary confirms she burned it, and they both feel bad now that they realize the untorn ticket would have proven that he never went to London. (Or maybe that he avoided the ticket-taker to establish an alibi?) Have these women never taken a train? How is it no one realized this earlier? What is it about Bates that makes everyone assume he must have murdered someone?
Anna has told Bates the mysterious baby-preventing device belongs to Mary, although Bates still can’t figure out why a widow lady would need something like that. They are talking about a post-Downton life, maybe opening a hotel someday, which must mean an arrest is imminent.
And now let us return to the only people who matter:
Mary makes another snide remark about Edith, and finally Violet tells her to shut the fuck up, except what she actually says is: “My dear, a lack of compassion can be as a vulgar as an excess of tears.” Thank you, Granny. Mary again manages to offend Violet by suggesting she’s bitter about Isobel’s engagement because of Isobel’s new social position and Violet should be “bigger” than that. Violet explains she’s upset she’s going to lose her friend and companion. Granted, it’s rare that Violet admits to either sentiment or vulnerability, but Mary seems confused by this—maybe because she doesn’t have any friends who aren’t employed by her. Has Mary always been this much of a sociopathic uber-bitch? Did Matthew and Sybil make her nicer?
There are more words preparing us for Tom’s maybe leaving someday. I wonder if this had anything to with inviting Lord Merton’s boys to dinner? Robert seems more accepting of the possibility that Tom will not always be tethered to Downton. Doesn’t he remember Tom will take Sybie to live in an American sewer?
Cora and Rosamund discover Edith in Edith’s office. Cora suggests Edith take Marigold home to “the nursery” and tell everyone the Drewes couldn’t keep her. No one will suspect anything! In fact, given how much time anyone spends in the nursery, no one will even notice. Edith is totally good with this as long as Mary and Robert don’t find out.
Is there something in the water besides the previously mentioned iodine? Lead, maybe?
A plan is hatched involving Farmer Tim’s meeting them at the station so that he can pick up Marigold. Then Cora and Edith can present the idea of taking her in, and Farmer Tim will just drop Marigold off at the big house. What could go wrong with that other than Mrs. Farmer Tim deciding she’s not giving her adopted child up a second time or going completely insane and killing everyone—which is exactly what would happen if Thomas Hardy was a screenwriter.
That’s not what goes wrong. What goes wrong is Mary is at the station. Edith spots her, and Farmer Tim sneaks onto the train and stays with Marigold to the next station so Mary won’t see them getting off the train with her. It works, but Anna sees the whole thing and says something to Mrs. Hughes, who previously overheard Farmer Tim and Edith talking. Mrs. Hughes reminds Anna that first rule of working at Downton Abbey is nobody talks about Downton Abbey.
Where is Her Royal Highness, Miss Lady Mary, Queen of the Universe off to on the train? She’s meeting Charles at the movies. All part of his plot to break her up for good with Tony. He tells Mary to kiss him so that Tony can “catch” them. Tony was watching the show with Mabel. Hey, what was Tony doing at the movies with Mabel? Even Tony knows it was set up, but he seems to be done—just as we were all done with this subplot weeks ago.
As for Charles, he’s off on some mission to Poland for a year, but who knows what the future holds for those crazy kids, especially if Tom leaves the show.
Back at Downton, the family gathers and hears Cora’s plan. The conversation is interrupted by tragic—but much foreshadowed—news. Isis has cancer and probably won’t make it to the morning. Robert is distracted, but not too distracted to call Cora’s plan idiotic. Then again, he’s not paying much attention to anything but his best girl.
Mary also isn’t in favor of taking in orphans. Who would have guessed that? She asks why they can’t just give the Drewes money. Tom speaks in favor of the plan. Does he know something? (He’s the most likely of the bunch to have put it together.) Robert has the final say and doesn’t want to argue with Cora, so he agrees.
Despite Isis’ condition, it’s too late to cancel the dinner with Lord Merton’s boys even though Robert would prefer to spend every minute with Isis. Tom offers to watch her during dinner, which is a ploy to get out of sitting at the table with that idiot Larry. TOM WOULD LITERALLY RATHER WATCH A DYING DOG THAN GO TO ANOTHER DISASTEROUS DINNER AT DOWNTON ABBEY. Mary tells him since Lord Merton is going to be married to little George’s grandmother and all, Tom needs to “lay down the ghost” of what happened last time. Besides, what are the odds of Larry’s being terrible again?
How terrible is Larry? He and his brother, Timothy, are both so awful I lost track of who said what, but Larry said most of it. First, there’s something about Edith never getting a man now that she’s taken on the excess baggage of an orphan child, and then lots of stuff about how doomed the marriage between Isobel and his father is because of her lack of breeding and background. Robert reminds him Isobel is the grandmother of his heir and grandson, but Larry is only getting started. He goes on about the Crawley’s “eccentric” choices in in-laws. “You already boast a chauffeur and now you can claim a Jew.” This, right in front of Atticus AND Cora! He’s acting like as much of a caricature of his class as Miss Bunting was of hers. Is this Julian Fellowes’ idea of fair and balanced? Tom has had enough; he calls Larry a bastard and tells him to get out. Robert says he doesn’t agree with the language but he does with the sentiment. Larry leaves to pout in the car. Timothy stays, telling Isobel, “What did you expect? That we would welcome you with open arms?”
Lord Merton tries to make it seem less horrific than it was. “We’ll laugh about it one day.” Isobel isn’t laughing. She is mortified. Well, that was a short engagement!
Atticus takes this as an opportunity to propose to Rose, figuring if they could deal with that, they’ll get through anything. She accepts, and they smooch. Hooray for love!
Robert wants to sleep in his dressing room with Isis. If she goes during the night, he doesn’t want her to be alone. Cora says she can sleep in the bed between “two people who love her.” And there will be no snark about that.