Finally, things are happening on Downton.
The show has been moving at a glacial pace, but the fifth episode of the season saw some big developments.
Aunt Rosamund comes to visit and confirms her suspicions that the baby Edith has taken such an interest in is, in fact, the daughter she was supposed to give up for adoption in Switzerland. Violet notices everything, and demands that Rosamund tell her what’s going on. Then they both tell Edith that she needs to take Marigold away from the farmer and his wife, and put her in a school in France. The current situation is untenable with Mrs. Drewe, the farmer’s wife, clearly fed up with Edith’s constant visits. “It’s a tinder box. It can go up at any minute,” Violet tells her granddaughter. No one seems to be worried about Mrs. Drewe, who has raised Marigold from birth. I don’t see her letting the girl she views as her daughter go, do you? And I’m kind of on Mrs. Drewe’s side on this one. The final scene shows Edith placing a call to London—perhaps formatting a plan to somehow live with Marigold.
Sarah Bunting accepts a new teaching job and is leaving. Hmmm… how do I put this delicately? GOOD RIDDANCE. Her character was a huge misstep for the show. While I agree that Tom would be taken with someone who shares his same ideological views, I don’t think he would ever be charmed by someone so rude and ungracious. Tom knows Sarah wants him to choose between the Granthams and her, and there’s no choice. His wife was a Grantham. His daughter is a Grantham. “I loved you, you know. I could have loved you more if you let me,” she tells him. But he really couldn’t have. Since Sybil’s death, Tom’s romantic prospects have been Edna, the maid who stalked him and drugged him, and Sarah Bunting. Is there a 1920s British version of Tinder or Match.com, because Tom so needs it.
Violet tries to engage Dr. Clarkson in breaking up Isobel and Lord Merton. Lord Merton wonders if Violet is concerned that if Isobel marries Lord Merton her social status will rise. “I’m sorry I do not quite grasp you’re question. It bewilders me,” Violet tells him. But when Dr. Clarkson and Violet observe Lord Merton and Isobel at lunch, they both agree that the couple is well suited for one another.
The investigation into the death of Mr. Green continues. The police come to question Anna and Lady Mary about their whereabouts when Mr. Green died. Mr. Bates promises Anna that “nothing bad is ever going to happen to you again” and that their future involves “all our children all around us.” I don’t know with these two. How great can their marriage be since they obviously NEVER talk to one another? He’s all, “You never told me what the inspector wanted yesterday.” Really? Your wife is a murder suspect, and you are just going to casually ask her about it a day later? Also, if these two want to be surrounded by a gaggle of children in their old age, they better get on it.
Simon Bricker comes to Downton and once again flirts with Cora. She doesn’t encourage him, but she also doesn’t completely shut him down. That is, until he ends up in Cora’s bedroom and refuses to leave. Robert comes home early and punches Bricker and the two get into quite the brawl. Elizabeth McGovern played these scenes just right. Cora is obviously flattered by Bricker, but clearly never thought the situation would get so out of hand.
The show is doing a slow roll out of Thomas’ story line. We still don’t know what is going on—only that he’s looking increasingly awful and sickly. Baxter begs him to stop doing this to himself, but Violet is the only member of the family that actually realizes that Thomas doesn’t look well. When Robert worries that perhaps Carson has been working him too hard, Thomas deadpans, “You are the soul of kindness Mr. Carson,” which might be one of the funniest lines ever uttered on the series.
Elsewhere Rose meets a new suitor, Mrs. Patmore asks financial advice from Mr. Carson and Charles Blake tries to get Lord Gillingham back with his ex-fiancée.
Other thoughts on Episode 5:
• Violet’s reaction to the news that there’s a nudist colony in Essex. “In Essex, isn’t it terribly damp?” Honestly we need t-shirts made of the Dowager Countess quotes.
• I keep waiting for Lord Gillingham’s reappearance. Will he get back at Mary by somehow making Anna look guilty for Mr. Green’s death, or will he damage Mary’s reputation?
• “I wish men worried about our feelings a quarter as much as we worry about theirs.” So true Mrs. Hughes, so true.
• Violet and Isobel need their own webisode series.
• Spratt’s facial expressions are the best.
What did you think of this episode of Downton Abbey? Talk about it below.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.