Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 6
February 8, 2015 10:11 PM - Season 5, Episode 6 - Subscribe

A steeplechase goes on. Edith gets bad news and makes a break for it herself. Romantic intrigues are teased at. Mr. Bates finally tells his side of the story. Thomas goes off the ...saline?

Number of romantic intrigues: 5
* Violet sneaks off to see her prince, who'd run off with her today if his wife turns up dead.
* Atticus's family throws a steeplechase and the Crawleys meet them and plan to have dinner later. Isobel mentions their Judaism to Violet, who...about chokes.
* Apparently Mary and Charles are trying to fix up Mabel and Tony again, and it seems to be working. Also, Mary bobbed her hair because she ah... can't help but look hot, I guess.
* Isobel has decided what to do about Lord Merton....going by her remark about one last adventure, this MIGHT be a yes?!?! But we'll drag that out another week.
* Robert has been sulking in the spare bedroom for like a week. Cora tells him to get the hell over himself and has he been totally faithful himself? Ahem. It's almost like she knows something.

Number of confessions: 2
* Thomas has been shooting himself up with saline...not heroin, according to the always correct Dr. Clarkson. After he gets a nasty wound from it, he goes to Baxter for help, and she drags him to the doctor to have him break the bad news that gayness isn't druggable--or shockable. Poor fellow. Baxter points out that if he's that determined he could do anything...which worries me.
* After finding Mary's secret birth control stash, Bates tells Anna he was planning to kill Green, but realized he'd hang if he did, so he sensibly backed out and went home with his ticket intact in his coat pocket as proof. OOPS.

Number of non-confessions: 2
* Isobel still won't quite say yes or no, dammit.
* Anna never explains to Bates that those birth control things were a recent purchase for Lady Mary.

Number of new feuds: 1, Spratt and Violet's new maid already hate each other. Like all of us in the modern era, she'll put up with it rather than be unemployed.

Number of runaways from home: 2, because after the death of Michael Gregson is officially confirmed once and for all (he did leave Edith the publishing company, though), she realizes she'll never be happy if she stays at home and forcibly takes Marigold away from the Drewes. Mrs. Drewe cries and well...ends up letting her. Tom spots Edith as she's about to leave and she tells him she's leaving, but not with who. Violet figures it out and runs to the Drewes. Does anyone else care that Edith's gone? PROBABLY NOT.

ISIS ALERT: THE DOG IS NOT LOOKING WELL. EVERYONE FREAK OUT NOW.
posted by jenfullmoon (69 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like your brief recaps.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:41 PM on February 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Cora kicked ass this week. Nice to see her stop being so demure. That constant mournful chin tucked down thing she always does gets on my nerves. (Except what was with her saying Isis was fat? She looked pretty scrawny to me. Poor pup.)

And wasn't Dr. Clarkson v. cool this week? I still think Isobel should have hooked up with him instead of stuffy Lord Whatever The Hell His Name Is. (Although his proposal was quite sweet.) But didn't Isobel more or less say what her decision was? (Not sure if it's a spoiler to say what I thought I heard.)

Re: Mary's hair, I figured Robert would squawk more about it but was amused by his passive aggressive "I think it looks like the kind of thing you'd do."

I can't say I'll be sorry for Edith to have less screen time. She's was just so wretched the whole time.

I thought Bates was being unnecessarily harsh to Anna. I'd have expected sadness with his reasoning but not hostility. It seemed kind of out of character for him. Although Atreides predicted something along those lines a couple weeks ago.
posted by Beti at 12:35 AM on February 9, 2015


I just now realized that my comment could be read as snark, but it was sincere. I really enjoy your episodes summaries.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:58 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


~ISIS ALERT: THE DOG IS NOT LOOKING WELL. EVERYONE FREAK OUT NOW.

I believe Lord Grantham mentioned having Mr. Drewe take a look at Isis. I'd say chances are good that this is how Robert will learn of Edith's child. Sad they had to make the dog sick to do it, though.

Also...How unnaturally fast is Marigold growing? That scene in the apartment with Edith holding Marigold...the kid was simply enormous! How old is she supposed to be now? Two? And, her head was every bit as big as Edith's! It's not a child, it's a pod-person!!!


~I thought Bates was being unnecessarily harsh to Anna. I'd have expected sadness with his reasoning but not hostility.

I dunno. I know they've written Bates as a bit of a gentle giant, but he is a man of his time, and birth control was very controversial then. I think, though, Bates was more angry about Anna supposedly using birth control behind his back, without discussion.


~I can't say I'll be sorry for Edith to have less screen time. She's was just so wretched the whole time.

Edith is easily the worst-written character in the show. I really feel for Laura Carmichael, having to play such a wretched character.

The character who has really taken a negative turn is Mary. Good lord, can she be more of an ass toward her sister (and anyone else, for that matter.) There's a real sense of her being quite impressed with herself this season, making her a much more unsympathetic character.

The new hairdo was hot, though. Especially the bit in the back.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:38 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Forgot to add...Thomas seemingly having regrets for sending the anonymous letter to Scotland Yard, coupled with his internal ordeal over his homosexuality and Baxter's friendly encouragement...might we see Thomas surprise us all and somehow rescue Bates over the death of Greene?
How are actors' contract negotiations going? Could we see Thomas take the fall for the killing?

I was actually surprised by Dr. Clarkson's reaction to Thomas' homosexuality. While he didn't personally approve, he didn't report him to the authorities, or kick him out of his office, either. He treated him as a patient, and not as something less than human.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Random background events that make me happy-- last episode had Violet and Isobel doing a jigsaw puzzle over tea; Lord Grantham and Tom were doing one before dinner this episode. Nice nod to them becoming something of a fad during this time period. Also, the Russians drinking tea out of glass cups!

Violet's reaction to Atticus's background was a bit inconsistent: has she forgotten that she had a Jewish machetun ? Cora brought up her Jewish background a few episodes back, and the Levinsons came to visit somewhat recently.
posted by damayanti at 5:49 AM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Mary's haircut was indeed pretty fine but still, dayum, Mabel Lane Fox! Maybe it's just because I'm more familiar with Mary's less attractive qualities, but I'm kind of crushing on Mabel these days.

As for Dr. Clarkson's reaction to Thomas' homosexuality, that's been pretty much the standard reaction on the show. I mean nobody's mounting a pride parade around Downton or anything, but I can't recall anyone who's become aware of it who hasn't managed - with some difficulty I guess as a nod to what period values were* - to accept it and get along with Thomas. Didn't Robert even lie to the cops for him at one point?

* For more on British period views of homosexuality, if you stuck around after Downton last night for the episode of (the really quite good) Grantchester, there was a much more realistic portrayal of the treatment of gay issues in Britain some thirty years later. It was not pretty.

Re the Green case, I don't know what to think now. I never thought Bates did it, but I was starting to think Anna did. After last night's confession scene, I'm not sure that's still viable. She really did think Bates did it, which means she didn't. So who the hell did kill him? At this point I think we have to assume it was either some unknown third party (surely Green had earned other enemies along the way - Anna most likely wasn't his first victim) or that it really was just an accident and the whole "what are you doing here?" line didn't mean anything.

Of course it doesn't really matter who actually killed Green - what matter's is who's going down for it. The police have got to know something that we don't. They have to have some reason for pushing in the direction they're pushing. My guess would be that Green boasted to some of his valet buddies in London about having raped Anna and the police know about that. If I had to call it right now, I'd guess that they arrest Anna, presenting a very convincing case, and that Bates confesses to save her.

But then I was positive there was no way in hell we were getting through that horse race last night without someone being either killed or grievously injured. So my foresight is not the best.
posted by Naberius at 7:42 AM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, my wild guess is that it was Baxter that killed Green, based on my uncorroborated supposition that it was Green who was the footman under whose spell Baxter stole all that stuff at her prior gig.
posted by Rat Spatula at 7:59 AM on February 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


But how much did you love Carson's clumsy attempt to shack up with future Mrs Hughes? Her eye roll at the end was worth a million Bates-'n-Edith woe-is-mes.
posted by Liesl at 8:00 AM on February 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


So, my wild guess is that it was Baxter that killed Green, based on my uncorroborated supposition that it was Green who was the footman under whose spell Baxter stole all that stuff at her prior gig.

Okay, I like that. It's certainly in keeping with the idea that nothing ever happens that isn't about the family/servants somehow so it had to be someone in the cast. I've previously described my headcanon fantasies about Carson or Mary killing him. Anna and Bates are real suspects. Someone suggested Thomas above. Maybe we should do one of those Clue things where we come up with alternate endings explaining why and how every single member of the cast killed Green.

I call Mrs. Patmore.
posted by Naberius at 8:09 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lady Mary placed first among women in the steeplechase - she even finished ahead of many men - and she did it while riding side-saddle and without breaking a sweat or losing her cute little hat with the netted veil. But I suppose it was better than her taking a tumble and having Tony and Charles race to her rescue.

The number of romantic intrigues really should include Carson and Mrs. Hughes - how sweet was his "proposal" . . . to invest in property together!

I thought Mr. Bates's explanation about the untorn ticket and Anna's reaction (which suggested she'd been worried that Mr. Bates had done the deed) served as proof that neither of them committed the crime. Hmmm . . . unless Mr. Bates actually bought two tickets to London and was keeping the one unused ticket as evidence of his "innocence" . . . which would be super conniving and solidly premeditated. Anyway, I actually think no one in the household killed Mr. Green and that the person who pushed him in front of the bus was another victim of his from another household. Anna was not the first or only victim of Mr. Green.
posted by kbar1 at 8:30 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bates would never ask why Lord Granthom is sleeping in his dressing room (as Lord G. tells Cora), but asks Anna exactly when Lady Mary is using birth control? I don't think so. That and Tom saying the Steeplechase was "not his thing" just made me want to throw something at the TV. And Rose, who's so boring I don't even case how inconsistent her character has become.

But I was pleasantly surprised that no one fell off a horse.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:32 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm rather loving Edith saying, "fuck all this, " and taking off with Marigold. Good for her for growing a pair. Mary is really nasty to her sister, especially considering that they both lost their mates tragically. Someone needs to tell her so, in very strong language.

I'm more interested in knowing who killed Green, so long as I don't have to watch some dumb, protracted, Bates hand wringing stuff any more. Can't they just blend into the woodwork? Please?

I think that Atticus is a good match for Rose. She gets her forbidden fruit, but he's her socio-economic equal. It doesn't hurt that everyone has totally assimilated. Good for her.

I agree, the anachronistic, "it's not my thing, " put my teeth on edge. Although Bertie Wooster was known to say, "it's not THE thing."

Poor Isis. I'm really dreading something happening to the puppy, although I thought it was adorable how Cora bent down to talk to her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:37 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ivan: I figured that was genuine. Thank you! :)

Isis is not fat, she's just big-boned! (Har.) Okay, but seriously, dying pets aren't fat. Unless we're supposed to think Cora is dumb enough to think Isis is somehow pregnant.

Mary was definitely being horrible in this one. I usually like her, but yeesh, girl. Also, stop toying with those guys. You don't really give much of a crap about either of them, time to throw those fish back and find another in the pond.

GO EDITH. YOU RUN AWAY AND NEVER COME BACK! I don't mean that in a "get rid of the character" so much as a "your life sucks at home, leave now, and good for you for finally taking off!" I am tempted to go look for spoilers to see if she's dragged back home by her hair (if anyone other than Tom cares) or actually makes it on her own.

"But didn't Isobel more or less say what her decision was? (Not sure if it's a spoiler to say what I thought I heard.)"

With Isobel, you never know. She doesn't actually say YES so much as "well, it'd be my last adventure" or something like that that seems to indicate yes...But I kind of expect she'll weasel out at the last minute because she really doesn't seem interested in any dudes she has on the string either. My, but the romances on Downton are tepid since Matthew died. Though I do have hope for Rose and Atticus--if the show lasted until WWII I'd be curious to see what happens THERE.

Bates was specifically calling Anna out for going around saying she wanted babies while supposedly using birth control behind his back, i.e. hypocrisy. Just like Nicki on Big Love!

I forgot to mention Carson's proposal until after I hit the post button and then had to leave, but...yeah, what the heck kind of proposal is that, sir?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope Anna and Bates never have a baby. I like both characters, and everyone knows that anytime a baby is born at Downton, one of the parents has to die. Preferably the very same day.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also...How unnaturally fast is Marigold growing?

I wondered about that. How old is she supposed to be? I was thinking a year or so and my husband said she looked like she was three or four! How long is she supposed to have been with the Drewes? I'm not a parent but I was perplexed that Mrs Drewe had gotten so attached to this kid that just kind of showed up one day under "unofficial" circumstances.

[Mrs Bates'] eye roll at the end was worth a million Bates-'n-Edith woe-is-mes.

Did she roll her eyes? It seemed she found him kind of goofy and stuffy but I thought she was smiling when she turned back to her desk. And remember, they had that hot time at the beach at the end of the 2013 Christmas special.
posted by Beti at 10:09 AM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure, she is equally amused at his incredible, stuffed-shirt awkwardness and charmed by his earnestness. That's the best he can do and she knows what a big deal that was for him.

I just thought this was a big step up from last episode where they suddenly decided to make poor Carson a vain, overfluffed mansplainer for Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes to laugh at. I mean sure he's an old fuddy duddy (I ADORED the subtle joke where he demonstrates his modernness by citing Sargent and Kipling - sort of like me saying of course I'm up with modern music. I listen to the Beatles!) but he's neither especially vain or condescending to women because they're women. (He condescends to those he feels deserve it regardless of their gender.) That was just not fair to Carson.
posted by Naberius at 10:29 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


* For more on British period views of homosexuality, if you stuck around after Downton last night for the episode of (the really quite good) Grantchester, there was a much more realistic portrayal of the treatment of gay issues in Britain some thirty years later. It was not pretty.

That's what really kills me about this show - it could have been amazing if it really explored the social attitudes that were commonly held at the time, but after an initial bit of harrumphing every one decides to just ignore their prejudices and it's all one big happy family. I just watch for the clothing now.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I agree on the attitudes towards homosexuality being WAY too hippy-dippy for real attitudes of the times. Nice try Mr. Fellowes, but you're not selling me on that. Although the best line of all time was Lord Grantham's. "I mean if I shouted blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eton, I'd have gone hoarse in a month."

I too watch Grantchester and found that episode to be WAY more realistic. I cringed at how mean people were, but I know that it's how things were.

And I can't help but remember Alan Turing and how awful the British government was to him, especially given how instrumental he was in winning WWII. The government chemically castrated the man. Jesus, it just wasn't that long ago.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


They have to have some reason for pushing in the direction they're pushing.

Well, there's the anonymous letter Thomas sent to the police, implying that Baxter had information, and, god knows what else.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2015


And, yeah, that Grantchester episode was vicious.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Geez, why did they leave us with the Isis cliffhanger?! Are they going to kill her off so they don't have a dog that shares the name of a violent terrorist organization in the Middle east? Are they being bribed or coerced by THAT ISIS to do just that so the beautiful lab is no longer the number one hit on google for "Isis" ? This whole thing smells of shenanigans. Though, given the fact that Robert absolutely rejected the idea of his lady canine not being virtuous, I fear the pregnancy is indeed the cause, or they wouldn't have set it up in the first place and had the man who always finds his preconceived ideas falling apart reject it.

Rest assured, Isis' real life handler probably gritted their teeth over the fat comments.

Edith and Marigold strike off! Of all things, I actually felt best for Mrs. Drewe and Mr. Drewe. Yes, the little girl who they had raised from the babe in the basket was viciously torn away by a member of the local ruling elite, but now they can move on and stop having to deal with Edith stalking the child. Right, so that's a bit sharp, but I admire Mr. Drewe for his forthrightness, when he could have easily lied to at least give Edith hell. One must wonder if he was able to really form much of an attachment to Marigold since he always knew her secret and she was the source of growing problems between himself and the Missus. Mrs. Drewe definitely suffered the worse, but is it balanced by the mother who must watch her child raised by another?

In the end, I think all three parties are best off by what happened, but now I'm scared Edith is going to accidentally kill Marigold or something for lack of knowing anything about taking care of a child 24/7. It brings her happiness, and as this show has demonstrated, anything that does that must A) Leave her at the altar or B) Die. She's the protagonist in a Thomas Hardy novel, an up and down ride on happiness and sorrow, ending with something so awful you want to throw the book out the window if you weren't sapped by the emotional drain of what just transpired on the page before your eyes. She shall remain 'Poor Edith' in my book and I severely hope that the writers will let her have the happy ending. Let her become a successful single mother, publisher, and social watchdog.

Mrs. Baxter and Thomas. If I knew Mrs. Baxter's age and Thomas' age better, I'd almost be willing to gamble they're mother and son or have some kind of familial past. Thomas knew her well enough to know about her felonious past, Mrs. Baxster knows him well enough to appear to have a genuine interest in the state of his father (or know the state of his father and be interested of Thomas saying something besides the truth), and it's to Mrs. Baxster that Thomas turns to for help and solace when his attempt to "fix" himself goes horribly awry. Very much in the manner that she ordered him to take what he had and go to the doctor came across like a mother ordering a child, less a friend offering firm advice. Kinship Watch 2015, here ya are!

Mr. Green. I definitely like Rat Spatula's theory that Mr. Greene was the scoundrel who lead Mrs. Baxster away. He was murdered about a year ago. The question arises, when did Mrs. Baxster get out of prison? She had a five year sentence and received parole after year three. The Scotland Yard officer implied she still had two years left on that parole, which would indicate that she got out shortly before becoming the lady's maid to Cora. This is what irritates me. Beyond the incredible coincidence, which can happen on soapy television, she would have had to run into Green almost immediately once she was out to pull it off and that's saying she was out before that death. I want it, but I dunno if the Gods of Downton will allow it.

Speaking of Mr. Green, thank you for the reminder, Beti, about the need to work on my sketching skills. I hate that they had Bates discover the contraception and the book, but I actually appreciated that it finally opened up the truth between the two concerning what happened. It's my guess that Anna had nothing to do with it either, based on how she reacted and what she said to Bates (Baxster?!). Yet, it does say something of her loyalty to Mary that she didn't blurt out, "M'lady Mary was sleeping around with Lord Gillywonker!" Too bad Mary will never know she did and be unable to give her a nice Christmas bonus or something to that affect. There's a certain irony that Bates can conceive that a woman would take incredible steps to refuse to have a child by a murderer, but still remain married and have sex with him. Lines shouldn't be crossed now!

What did befall the ticket stub? Did Mrs. Hughes burn it?

I actually adore the slow spiraling story of the romance between Mrs. Hughes and Carson. Never has proper protocol decorated such a wooing. (Count me in that she was pleased with the "partnership" in discussion)

Mary. She went and bobbed. And yes, she pulls it off, and no, she isn't awful for debuting it and organizing a picnic after there was confirmation of what's his name's death. She is awful, and really, perfectly in line with season 1 Mary, when she snarled back at Edith who obviously was having a difficult time. Good thing she doesn't have to deal with a toddler having a temper tantrum, nay, her single social life is only occasionally tied down to maternity. Lady Fox definitely wins the prize between them, but I guess Lord Gillytoddy only needed a week or two to cool down from the frightening Cape Fear'ish crazy dude we saw by Peter Pan's statue. Seriously, the whole thing seems to almost to have happened only to make the connection between Mary and Charles not seemed rushed. I hope we see more evil Tony next week to allow him to really indulge in his evilness, so he can at least be a spurned lover and not a spurned plot device.

Cora and Robert. YOU GO GIRL. And. Once again. Robert is wrong. Let's re-title him, Robert, Earl of Wrongton Abbey. This cottage renovation thing may be one of the few things he ever gets right, presumably, on the show. I hope they let him enjoy his moment in the landlord sun.

Tom. Everyone loves Tom. I have a horrible, sneaking suspicion that somehow Tom will end back up with Ms. Bunting and set off on a grand socialist adventure. That's the worse case scenario, but if you do think about it, Charles represents a very fine replacement in the business side of things at Downton. He's not afraid to get dirty and has progressive views of the future and the landed gentry. Charles is the new Tom?

Merton. Signs say yes to marriage. Isobel wants an adventure and one does not embark on an adventure by saying no and remain doing exactly what she's been doing. I'm still horrible confused by Violet's take on the marriage and her role in it. Were all her efforts previously designed to push Isobel away from Merton? Will Violet and the Prince ever be together? (Yes, the fellow who has lived decades with his wife is ready to drop her in a moment...that's love or a sign that he may not be the one.

A fair bit of setup for next episode, me thinks.
posted by Atreides at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The more I think about it, the more I like the Baxter theory. I mean in the real world, it wouldn't have anything to do w Downton at all if neither Anna or Bates did it. But this is TV and I just don't think they can get away with the guilty party being someone we've never seen or even heard of. Like they suddenly just go, oh, nevermind, a butcher from Croydon did it. You're free to go. So that leaves us with some kind of ridiculous contrivance, and this one sounds good as ridiculous contrivances go.

So in this theory, Green's "What are you doing here?" line means "how did you get out of jail?"

Also, Tony shall henceforth be known, in my household anyway, as Lord Gillywonker.
posted by Naberius at 11:26 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess Lord Gillytoddy only needed a week or two to cool down from the frightening Cape Fear'ish crazy dude we saw by Peter Pan's statue.

Yes, what was that? Was that actor just poorly directed for that scene, did no one tell him that his character wasn't going to be an intractable Crawley stalker? That performance made me think that things would go much worse between Mary and Tony.

I have no sense of how old Marigold is supposed to be, but the Drewes weren't her first family, nor are they the first family from whom Edith has taken her away! She went back to Switzerland and retrieved Marigold from her original adoptive family -- whoever they were. Edith has never wanted to give Marigold up, and so especially after producing the birth certificate where she put her own name, I am more sympathetic to her, even if she's leaving emotional wrecks as she goes about asserting her parental rights.
posted by gladly at 11:41 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


In Edith's defense, she was never up for any of that. It was Rosamund that kept pushing her to ditch the baby in Switzerland, and then Rosamund and Violet planning to.. what, I guess break into the Drewe cottage wearing balaclavas in the dead of night and spirit the kid away to France.

This was basically Edith doing what I argued she had to do ultimately - just a lot faster since she suddenly has her very own big media company to support her escape from the old social order. I don't think she handled it as well as she might have, but this was something she had to do. The situation as it stood was unsustainable and was just going to get worse the longer she let it fester.

I would have almost expected some kind of moment of bonding between her and Mrs. Drewe as Mrs. Drewe brings Marigold the toy rabbit and is just losing it. Something like "I'm her mother. That's what it's always been like for me. " With a bit of sympathy on both sides for a woman thrust into a painful emotional situation very like her own for reasons outside her control.
posted by Naberius at 11:53 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I fear the pregnancy is indeed the cause

White lab puppies - OMG, yes please! They owe it to us, the bastards. But did anyone else think it was odd that Cora wasn't patting poor Isis on the head even a little? She just squatted down and stared at her the whole time. (I have a lab with the softest ears ever so I'm biased.)

What did befall the ticket stub? Did Mrs. Hughes burn it?

Thinking she was helping Mr Bates, Mary burned it at the end of last season after he retrieved the Prince of Wales' compromising letter to his mistress.
posted by Beti at 11:55 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's certainly in keeping with the idea that nothing ever happens that isn't about the family/servants somehow

Up to and including having Edith's baby daddy killed by Hitler, because why else would anyone at Downton care about the social unrest in Germany that will eventually build to another war?
posted by donajo at 12:24 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, hat's off to Edith, for finally having some agency in her own life. I hope she and Marigold have very jolly times indeed.

Am I the only one who thinks that the bob doesn't particularly look good on Michelle Dockery? It's not hideous, but it's not an improvement over wearing her hair up. And I loved the "they always look like bald monkeys" hairdresser.
posted by donajo at 12:28 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


The bob really doesn't look all that different from her previous updo hairstyle. Whoop-de-doo.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Geez, why did they leave us with the Isis cliffhanger?!

Isis is at least 13 years old at this point. The problem is that the show time is moving much faster than the seasons. I was actually wondering at the beginning of the season what they would do about the problem of the aging dog.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:11 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I forgot to mention Carson's proposal until after I hit the post button and then had to leave, but...yeah, what the heck kind of proposal is that, sir?

A Remains of the Day proposal, I guess.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 4:09 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I loved the "they always look like bald monkeys" hairdresser.

Was it just me or did he have a French accent when he talked to Mary and then an English accent with the other staff person?
posted by Beti at 5:39 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Was it just me or did he have a French accent when he talked to Mary and then an English accent with the other staff person.

Nope, total put on. Who knew York was so snooty?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:22 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can we just call a moratorium on everyone who's being a dick to Molesley?

Also: I am really looking forward to more catfights between Violet's new maid and Spratt.*
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:49 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Oh, all this endless thinking! It's very overrated. I blame the war. Before 1914 nobody thought about anything at all."

--The Dowager Countess of Grantham
posted by dnash at 8:01 PM on February 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was actually wondering at the beginning of the season what they would do about the problem of the aging dog.

Not to mention the problem of the aging Dowager Countess. Really, how old is she supposed to be? And what was life expectancy back then? If she dies, a huge part of the show dies with her, so they don't dare, but realistically it seems to me she'd be far more infirm and home-bound at this point in her life, assuming she was alive at all at her age.
posted by dnash at 8:11 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Old coots can live on forever. The DC will live to be 117.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:24 PM on February 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


I thought Bates was being unnecessarily harsh to Anna.

If my pet theory was correct it was just foreshadowing, so we won't be as surprised when we learn more about what a criminal mastermind he was. If he was the guy who made Baxter steal, then this is just a demonstration about how controlling and frightening he can be.

. unless Mr. Bates actually bought two tickets to London and was keeping the one unused ticket as evidence of his "innocence"

My thoughts exactly.

I was positive there was no way in hell we were getting through that horse race last night without someone being either killed or grievously injured.

Me too! It was refreshing to see a horse race that for once didn't end that way. It even seemed to tease that it might, with a cut to the hedgerow Mary was about to jump - and then she landed fine. Just keeping us on our toes, I guess.

, my wild guess is that it was Baxter that killed Green

I like that theory, too. I also agree that it's not out of the realm of possibility that Baxter is Thomas' mother.
posted by Miko at 8:30 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Downton wiki cites her birth year as 1842, so she would be 82 in 1924.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:30 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding Cora's comment about Isis looking ill, I thought she was talking about baby Sybil until Mary rather disinterestedly commented that she probably just ate a squirrel. Granted I was only partially paying attention (and was watching on an old TV with a relatively small screen).

I did appreciate that they wrapped up the Gregson storyline with seemingly definitive news of his death. I had feared that it would be treated much like the (apparently) faux heir/ex-fiancé of Mary who died on the Titanic, reappeared at Downton as a wounded soldier and then just left without further mention. For me, that was the weirdest and most unnecessary storyline in Downton thus far.

I also loved the Mrs. Hughes/Mr. Carson interaction at the end.

I agree that this season's Mary is really just a return to season 1 Mary. I guess that she is officially out of the mourning period and letting her bitch flag fly.

Finally, I am tired of both Bates, Thomas, and Lord Grantham (although the last is worth keeping around solely due to his comedic potential).
posted by kaybdc at 9:18 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had feared that it would be treated much like the (apparently) faux heir/ex-fiancé of Mary who died on the Titanic, reappeared at Downton as a wounded soldier and then just left without further mention. For me, that was the weirdest and most unnecessary storyline in Downton thus far.

I had successfully repressed that, thank you very much.

If Miko's evil Bates turns out to be true, that would make him one of the most frightening characters on tv. And dang it, I hate seeing Anna get upset.

Poor Molesly indeed. I forgot all about him. They must be setting him up for something wonderful with everything they've done to his character this season. That or he's going to get hit by a train.
posted by Atreides at 6:59 AM on February 10, 2015


They must be setting him up for something wonderful

He's flirting a lot with Daisy...
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dunno, the double-ticket thing seems like a stretch - wouldn't the station agent tell the police about the fellow who bought two tickets?

Also, I finally connected the dots with what Bates said to Grantham after recovering the Scandal Letter from Mr. Cardshark: "It occurred to me, m'lud, that if I had an important paper, I would keep it on my person..."

I guess I don't buy the Supervillain Bates theory because I can't imagine the show runners have the stones to pull it. Plus, what's the big payoff for him? "Haha, you fools, with my clever scheme I've obtained a moderately-paid job with little chance of advancement and a wife who is sweet to me!"
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:01 AM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I dunno, the double-ticket thing seems like a stretch - wouldn't the station agent tell the police about the fellow who bought two tickets?

Yeah, well he could buy them from separate places, but that just means there are now two ticket clerks who might remember him. Though seriously. It was a guy buying a train ticket. A year ago. I'm astonished by the expectation that people are going to be able to describe their movements on detail on a day a year ago, and even more so that some bored ticket clerk is going to remember whether or not some particular person was among the hundreds who bought train tickets on a given day. A year ago. Unless Bates' hat was on fire or something, he'd be totally safe from me.

I enjoy this "Bates as Moriarty" speculation, but I don't really buy it. I'm now pretty firmly convinced it had to be Baxter. Though again, I think we should all pick a cast member and argue for how they did it.

It was Mrs. Patmore. On the sidewalk. With the bus.
posted by Naberius at 9:21 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was a guy buying a train ticket. A year ago.

In the Law and Order-verse, this would be enough for the ticket seller to describe the buyer's life story.
posted by drezdn at 9:32 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Haha, you fools, with my clever scheme I've obtained a moderately-paid job with little chance of advancement and a wife who is sweet to me!"

Apparently that's actually a pretty sweet deal for pre-social-safety-net England. When Robert fired Bates back in Season One, the implication was that it was basically off to die in a gutter somewhere for him. And note how quickly Molesley descended into a Dickensian hellscape when he lost his job.

I know some people right now who would give a lot to have those things.
posted by Naberius at 10:03 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, I agree; we can add lots of epicycles to explain how he might have bought a second ticket (heck, he could have just said "I need a second one for my wife, who is across the street shopping at the moment").

On the other, I think there might be a chance that the station agent's memory might be more clear than we in the modern age would be willing to grant. I'm flailing here, so bear with me, but I suspect one aspect of pre-electronic-media life* is that everywhere was a small town. Life was slower, one's brain was less agitated, populations were smaller, everyone was class-conscious in a way we can't really relate to (I got a strong sense of this reading Patrick O'Brien), so people in the village recognize each other, and remember things we wouldn't; it's not implausible that the station agent would know Bates by name.

And I also agree with Naberius; as things go, Bates has a fairly nice life; but to me, he seems only too aware of this fact, and appreciative of it, making the notion of him being a secret nefarious schemer incongruous. If he's happy with what he's got, why take a huge risk that would mess up his life? A Big Evil Master Plan presupposes a big juicy payoff... but killing Green would have just been simple justice/vengeance. What else are we supposing he's up to? (Honestly, I'm all ears - I don't believe the Evil Bates theory, but I kinda want it to be true because then at least there'd be something HAPPENING...)

*Granted, Downton Abbey occurs near the end of this period, with radio wireless on the rise.
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, as long as I'm monologuing endlessly, add me to the camp of people dissatisfied with the way Thomas is handled; but I just don't see how they can handle it well.

On the one hand, they have to make all the other characters anachronistically tolerant of him - otherwise, he just gets arrested for indecency or killed by thugs, bada-bing, end of the line.

On the other, by making everybody okay with it, they rob the show of most of the narrative interest and dramatic tension that would seem to be the whole purpose of dropping a gay character into Edwardian England.

Maybe he'll be getting a boyfriend, so we can see which of the Downtonians get panty-twisted by having to deal with gay-in-practice vs. gay-in-principle? Again, I don't think the show runners have the testiculo-ovarian fortitude to do it, but as things stand, he's just sort of a weird mascot.
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the other, I think there might be a chance that the station agent's memory might be more clear than we in the modern age would be willing to grant.

You know, that's an interesting point. I've often been amazed reading things like the Holmes stories and other period crime and mystery fiction, how easy it seems to be for the cops or detective or whoever to identify people just based on a verbal description. Maybe I have some neurological deficit, but I could never read the kind of paragraph they usually talk about, look at someone, and go "yep, that's him." Hell, I doubt I could describe my own wife well enough that you could pick her out of a lineup of tall, slender women with light brown hair.
posted by Naberius at 10:51 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Before the written word, people's memories were VAST for memorization and recitation. They had to be, there was no other way of being able to store information.

I think visual identification would be the same. Without photography, television, etc, you would need to rely on description and memory of faces and people.

So while modern folks may think it improbable, if you were living in a smallish town with a station on the parliamentary train, it may very well be that the agent would know most of the regular folks in town, and would easily remember the day that Mr. Bates bought a return for London.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:24 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is actually a line in one of the O'Brien novels where Maturin (listening to one of the crew reciting a poem?) observes that formal education ruins a person's ability to memorize.
posted by Rat Spatula at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Note, though, that it's the ticket seller in York, which is a pretty big place, the biggest in northern England. I once had a job where I often had to dispense tickets to thousands of people on a near daily basis for approximately six months. I remember one person, a fellow who spoke no English and I had to communicate with him via doodles. Nice guy!

If it was the local Downton ticket agent, I definitely could see it happening. In York, unless there was something particular about Bates (saying they noticed his limp and something else), I have a hard time suspending my disbelief.
posted by Atreides at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't believe the Evil Bates theory, but I kinda want it to be true because then at least there'd be something HAPPENING...)

That's kind of why I came up with it. I want it all to mean something, and unless there's more to the picture it doesn't add up that much.

I'll have to figure out what he stands to gain beyond a safe berth and maybe some money (maybe from blackmailing Grantham) he can retire/escape on (there was lots of talk of retirement in this last episode..new concept). But you have to admit he was freaking cold. blooded. with Anna just there. And I've never for a second believed he didn't kill Vera. That pie crust story...

But like I said, maybe I just wish the show were that interesting. I wish it had some sort of through line like that, instead of just meandering.
posted by Miko at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2015


It feels to me that they are just rehashing old story lines and that they have kinda run out of interesting things for Bates. Except for the "did he or didn't he" plot line the actual character has had very small part in this seasons episodes. Except for a short little scenes where he interacts with his wife or Thomas he is practically non existent.

I thought maybe they were setting up to get rid of Bates by sending him off to the gallows or something with this murder story line. But who knows now. To me it feels like the same story as the early one about whether or not he murdered his ex wife or whoever she was in an earlier season.

The whole storyline about whether Mary will settle down and find a mate feels to me like the same old thing over again also. If they don't start moving the series along towards some sort of ending I will lose interest and quit watching.
posted by Justin Case at 2:14 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing the series could do to improve things is to focus the cast on a shared plot. The show, as it stands right now, is nothing but an hour or so of unrelated 30-second vignettes. It's a hodge-podge, with nothing binding it together, other than they all happen to wander around the same mansion.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:24 PM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing the series could do to improve things is to focus the cast on a shared plot.

I really perked up during the Prince of Wales scandal letter episode, the Season 4 closer, which had Robert, Rose, Mary and Bates all conspiring to retrieve the letter although I recall there were some unnecessary machinations to get everyone to go to the theatre that night with Shirley MacLaine's character deciding not to cooperate.

Since the last episode is always the Christmas special, it serves the function of wrapping up a lot of meandering storylines and at the same time almost serves as a stand alone piece. In another forum, someone pointed out that Fellowes is really much better [sic] at writing a one-off drama (like Gosford Park) than a continuing story. Juggling stories is really difficult. I wish Fellowes would pass it on to someone more skilled at it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:01 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


We've established that Thomas is not drugged, but has anyone checked the children? They all seem ridiculously quiet, particularly Marigold, when she's being taken away from her adoptive mother. That whole scene just seemed so unrealistic to me, Mrs. Drewe just acquiescing like that, and Marigold hardly uttering a peep. I would have thought there'd be more screaming and wailing.
posted by peacheater at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ya everyone talking about "the writers" and "the show runners", it's just Julian Fellowes and he doesn't have any more ideas. There's no plan, no deeper meaning, no big payoff. It's a buddy comedy starring Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton with too much cruft and filler in between their scenes.
posted by bleep at 9:55 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Frankly, I don't know why I keep watching the show. Some residual fondness for some of the characters, I guess.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


That, or the pathological hope that something will finally happen.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:45 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Personally, for me it's mainly the material culture. It's cool to see a reconstruction of the way spaces and objects were used (even if it's fast and loose about much of it).
posted by Miko at 6:04 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, my entry in the Naberius Nobody's Innocent Challenge:

Green's killer is clearly Lord Merton, the true cloaked evil, who, thanks to his endless charm and improbably excellent teeth, is now on the cusp of luring Isobel into his stable of prostitutes. As Merton's "alpha ho", Cousin Violet sits comfortably astride this netherworld, viciously keeping Merton's other "wives" in line. By reverse psychology she has driven Isobel directly into Merton's clutches; her station as Merton's lieutenant depends on constantly feeding him fresh meat. Is Prince Kurogin her way out, or just the guy working the other side of the street?

Merton, a consummate businessman playing the long game, foresees the inevitable increase in lifespan brought about by national health reforms, and knows that it will bring with it its own perversions; he is working to corner the GILF sector early. Consequently he is a strong supporter of socialized medicine.* (His interest in the subject coincidentally proved handy in seducing Isobel with talk of the public good.)

Merton was forced to kill Green, an up-and-coming competitor, to keep his pimp hand strong.

Spratt and Denker, of course, are partners on the undercover vice squad, soon to get their own poorly-rated British crime show.

*Here, Fellowes is clumsily attempting to write his Big Bad as a liberal, when of course Merton is just another capitalist extracting private value from public cost.
posted by Rat Spatula at 6:49 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was positive there was no way in hell we were getting through that horse race last night without someone being either killed or grievously injured.

Yeah, that scene totally reminded me of the scene in "Babe" in which Farmer Hoggett does the dance for the ailing pig. There's a moment where it slows down, and it shows him agonizingly jumping up into the air and spinning ... and to a one, every single person I've shown that movie to for the first time has their hands over their eyes that whole scene, just convinced he's going to collapse or break his leg or something. The horse race had that same feel of inevitability ... and then it just didn't.
posted by jbickers at 7:44 AM on February 11, 2015


I would totally watch Denker and Spratt! Or, better yet, add Molesley to the team...

Once upon a time, there were three servants, who performed their duties adequately I suppose. Surely not up to the standards that once prevailed in service in our great houses, but what can one do? As people keep telling me, the world is changing, and I suppose we must change with it. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name... is Violet.
posted by Naberius at 7:56 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'd greatly enjoy the parallel universe, goateed version of Downton Abbey.

INT. DOWNTON, LIBRARY - DAY

Cora is seated, reading. Robert enters, pensive.

                            ROBERT
          Cora, I am meeting Murrary this afternoon and will
          be overnighting in London.

                             CORA
          Oh, dear. Those gentlemen from India?

Robert frowns with distaste.

                            ROBERT
          Yes, some ... remains ... were found in the Thames and
          Murray expects Scotland Yard to come calling.

                             CORA
          Sybil would have left nothing to be found.

                            ROBERT
          I told the Belgravian that Mary was up to the task;
          she must be seen to be capable. We discussed this.

                             CORA
          Darling Sybil was so put out -- you know how much
          she enjoys dismemberment and she's so very thorough.

                            ROBERT
          Spilt milk, I'm afraid. There's nothing for it.

Robert glances down at the book Cora has set aside.

                        ROBERT (CONT.)
          "120 Days?" Again?

Cora sighs and looks at Robert with patient fondness.

                             CORA
          When I'm melancholy, it reminds me why I came to
          Europe.

                            ROBERT
          Downton and I aren't enough?

                             CORA
          Downton, and you, and ... what we do here. The
          black heart of Downton is my joy, and we partake
          of it together.

Robert coughs to disguise his discomfort.

                            ROBERT
          I will return tomorrow.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:53 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


jenfullmoon, love your comprehensive [more inside]! As someone who watched the season and xmas special in real(UK)time, I come here pretty much just for the theory/reaction entertainment, but I usually can't remember the episode in great detail. Thanks for structuring your posts in this manner; it's quite helpful (and fun).
posted by heyho at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Aw, thanks!

"Though seriously. It was a guy buying a train ticket. A year ago. I'm astonished by the expectation that people are going to be able to describe their movements on detail on a day a year ago, and even more so that some bored ticket clerk is going to remember whether or not some particular person was among the hundreds who bought train tickets on a given day."

Yeah, I think we've all learned from Serial that that kind of shit is hard to remember. Hell, I blank out on people I saw 15 minutes ago after I had to wait on 12 other people in between their first and second times, so...yeah.

Oh, the other day I was reading a Washington Post chat and someone mentioned that Matthew and Mary's kid would be turning 18 in 1939...HOLY SHIT, THEY'RE GONNA LOSE ANOTHER HEIR AGAIN!!!!! If they ever do that big of a time skip, anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:02 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's pretty well established that people's memories functioned differently before the era of mass communication. There have been studies of things like musical repertoire and recitation and the like - in fact I was just reading a story in T Magazine about The Knowledge of London Cabbies and how sections of their brains have developed differently as a result of this kind of spatial/verbal/geographical demand on them. Before we could store and share so much information externally (and when the universe of information we encountered was smaller), more of us had to have that kind of command, if a less specialized sort. Based on my sense of premodern life, I think it's feasible you could remember a ticket purchaser from a year ago.

When I was waitressing I occasionally would have someone come in to the restaurant at really long, 6 month- or year intervals, and still recognize them as someone I had served before. They were sometimes surprised, but you do recognize people you've seen before, and they recognize you. We're pretty good at it, really.
posted by Miko at 2:00 PM on February 12, 2015


some bored ticket clerk is going to remember whether or not some particular person

This discussion is the first thing I thought of when I read this AskMe. If the British train system used these punch photographs (basically physical descriptions of a passenger punched onto the ticket) then that certainly increases the chance of Mr Bates being remembered.
posted by Beti at 10:44 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


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