Downton Abbey RECAP: The Russians Are Coming! (S5:E3)

da logo

Day seven, the final morning of Lady Mary’s one-week sexathon with Lord Gillingham. Tony is watching Mary chow down on breakfast. “You’ve worked up a good appetite,” he says.

da 5.3 if you know

Does she reply with a lusty smile, “I’m just getting started.” No, she does not. She cuts him cold, in a tone the Dowager would approve of, “I hate vulgarity.” It’s clear that, while she might not have had a bad time, she’s not basking in the afterglow. He, however, is besotted, and talking about their future together. Oh dear!

"No, I most certainly do not know what you mean."

“No, I most certainly do not know what you mean.”


You know how they chose to go to Liverpool because no one who matters would possibly see them there? Guess who just happens to be in town for a wedding and is walking by when they leave the hotel? Violet’s weird butler Spratt is who. That’s not contrived at all!


Spratt can’t wait to tell Violet the news, but being Spratt he tries to make her pry it out of him. Violet won’t play, so he finally blurts. Here we have the joy of watching the Dowager turn from ascorbic grande dame into superhero. (Her superpower is verbal dexterity and the ability to turn grown men to quivering lumps of aspic–with words.) Violet immediately replies that of course Lady Mary was with Lord Gillingham for a conference of northern landowners. But she isn’t done yet. She asks pointedly, “What did you think you were seeing?” Well done, Violet! Once he’s gone to change his pants, we watch the color drain from the awesome Maggie Smith’s face as she turns back into a very old woman collapsing into her chair.

Later Violet asks Mary to come by for tea so she can get to the bottom of this. She almost spills the beans about Edith when she asks if there might be an “unwanted epilogue” to the affair. She’s as shocked by Mary’s unapologetic attitude as by the event, telling her that in her day a woman didn’t even feel physical attraction until after she was instructed to by her mama.

Speaking of unwanted epilogues, Mrs. Drewe tells her husband she’s really not into threesomes and would he please tell Lady Edith to leave their family alone.

Cora goes to London to visit the museum in the company of Simon Bricker who, unlike her husband, notices she’s a living breathing woman. He tells her she has great insight into art and generally hangs on her every word. They wind up going to dinner, although there is no good-night kiss and Cora makes it clear this madness must end.

She gets back to Rosamund’s only to discover a very angry Robert, who had come up to surprise her. How could Cora be so inconsiderate as to be nice to that chap what flirted with Robert’s dog? Cora does not tell Robert to eat a bag of dicks, nor does she remind him that he only married her for her money, but she does use sarcasm on him, so good for her.

She was almost maybe kind of tempted to do something wrong! The drama!!!

She almost came this close to being tempted

In other upstairs news relevant to this episode, Lady Rose, who was introduced as a flapper troublemaker, has now devoted herself to country life and good works. She’s busy helping out Russian refugees of her social class.

Meantime, downstairs at Downton is even more exciting! Mrs. Patmore makes spotted dick for the servants, which is raisin pudding that has a funny name, but nobody laughs because sex won’t even be invented in England until 1963.

Have you seen my spotted dick?

Have you seen my spotted dick?

Patmore would also like to see her nephew Archie–who was shot as a deserter–get honored at the memorial Carson is in charge of, but Carson says no. Mrs. Hughes disagrees because in these modern times we know about shell shock and it is 1924 and all. Mrs. Hughes is awesome, but soft power has its limits, and she can’t persuade Carson.

Daisy, who hasn’t been this animated since she had a crush on whatshisname, is talking about maths and her admiration for Miss Bunting. (Coming soon to your Kindle, Daisy/Bunting fanfiction–Going Down in Downton, Part I.)


Baxter, encouraged by Mr. Mosley, who no longer has blue hair, finally tells Cora the truth. She stole the jewels for the love of a cruel but handsome footman because there’s always a cruel but handsome footman in these stories. Cora decides not to sack her maybe because Cora is feeling particularly understanding these days about how good it feels to even be noticed by a man.

Thomas is interested in some sort of early version of conversion therapy he’s seen advertised in a London paper. Maybe it will convert him from being evil because everyone at Downton is pretty much okay with the gay thing.

"Hello, is this Marcus Bachmann?"

“Hello, is this Marcus Bachmann?”

The police are back investigating Green’s death, which they now think may be a homicide. They’re questioning Bates, who says he was in York and mentions a few places he was seen.

"They saw me over at the

“Why am I always the one getting investigated for murder?”

Anna tells Hughes how terrified she is that Green’s raping her will become public, but Hughes points out that the only people who know are Anna, Hughes and Mary. Anna never told Bates it was Green, and of course Bates never told her he knows it was. So why does she suspect Bates killed Green? Wouldn’t it make sense for her to discuss this with her husband? Or does she prefer to imagine she’s married to a jealous psychopath?

Downton Abbey RECAP: The Russians Are Coming! (S5:E3)


To complicate things even more, Mary gives Anna her undefined contraceptive “thing” to hide at the cottage because Mary is afraid her snoopy sister will find it and tell on her. But if Bates’ temper is that dangerous, mightn’t Anna be risking her life bringing the whatsit home? There would be a lot less drama on this show if people actually talked to each other.

How do all these separate story lines come together? They don’t exactly, but go pour yourself a nice big Stolichnaya or swig from the bottle because Rose’s Russians are coming for chai and to see some tsotchkes Robert’s parents picked up a really long time ago at the wedding of Prince Alfred to the Grand Duchess Maria.

What could possibly go wrong?


First, Tony shows up uninvited to stalk Mary and make awkward small talk with Isobel of the “I’m not trying to take your dead son’s place with Mary, but I totally am” variety. Second, Farmer Tim comes around to tell Edith his wife hates her guts and she needs to stay away. This sends Edith running into the house in tears, but nobody notices because it’s Edith and she didn’t burn down the house. Of course, Miss Bunting happens to be downstairs tutoring Daisy, so Rose decides to invite Miss Bunting up to meet the Russians because it’s not like there’s a history of disaster every time she invites Miss Bunting upstairs.


“Would you like to meet my Russian refugees?” Rose asks.

“You mean your displaced aristos?” Miss Bunting replies.

Yeah, that should go well.

Bunting brings up the “misguided policies of the czar,” and the Russians get ready to leave en masse. Robert is about to start yelling, but it’s Cora who saves the day by quietly and politely reminding those displaced aristos that they came to see the lovely swag Violet saved from that royal wedding. They consider these holy relics and overlook the Bolshevik schoolteacher, and the day is saved.

Violet notices a fan displayed with the rest of the souvenirs and delivers a powerhouse monologue, proving for all time that there is only one star on Downton Abbey and that is Dame Maggie.


“I never have to steal a scene because I own every damn one of them.”


She describes a hot night at the Winter Palace, and a handsome gentleman who cooled her off by giving her that fan. That special someone is, of course, one of that evening’s guests, and he remembers the evening as well. He looks like a Russian Billy Connolly, but his name is Price Kuragin…and his wife just happens to be missing.

"Have you seen my spotted dick? ...Because Violet has."

“Have you seen my spotted dick? …Violet has.”


As Mary says, “Thank heavens papa and Aunt Rosamund were already born or we could spin all kinds of fairytales.” Too bad the show didn’t let us spin them at least until Daisy had a chance to do the math. Still, it’s clear something happened between these two, and maybe there’ll be more to come. After all, who wouldn’t want to see Maggie Smith get it on with Russian Billy Connolly?

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...