In the world of Downton Abbey, marriages are often strategic, not romantic. Throughout the series, many couples came together because they made a good, proper match. In some cases, love grew—but not always. This episode explores that fragility in relationships, but it also looks ahead, optimistically. Much of season 5 has been about changing times, and you can bet your bottom quid that that translates to the world of love and marriage.
Hugh “Shrimpy” MacClare, Rose’s father and Robert’s cousin-in-law, visits Downton to tell his family that he and his wife, Susan, are getting divorced. And, you know, in 1924 Edwardian society, divorce is kind of a big freaking deal. Rose takes the news as a valuable learning lesson and tells her father that she won’t be bullied into a suitable marriage. (Basically, she doesn’t want to end up like her parents.) Rather, she only wants to marry if she’s totally, absolutely in love.
It seems Mary is in this camp as well. Just a couple episodes back, she thought Tony could be the one. She even decided to go on a romantic rendezvous with him, risking her reputation to explore her feelings. The trip made her sure all right—sure that he’s not the one. This episode, Mary headed to London to attend a dress show with Rosamund. While in town, she met with Tony to call things off, and he doesn’t take it well at all. He thinks Mary’s trying to tell him he’s bad in the sack, but it’s quite the opposite. Mary doesn’t think he’s a bad lover. Instead, she thinks that there isn’t much there between them aside from sex—they just don’t have enough in common. Not to mention, he’s too vanilla, too nice, until he isn’t. “I refuse to believe that a woman like you, a lady, would give herself to a man without first being certain that he’s the one,” Tony says, shocked by the blow. He declares that they’ll just have to work through it. And the discussion ends there, but odds are this can’t, and won’t, be resolved.
Charles, suitor no. 2, taking Mary out the night before certainly didn’t help Tony’s case. Mary ran into him while at the dress show, and the two flirted like there was no tomorrow. (Cut to Charles winking cheekily toward a model walking down the runway in a fashionable wedding dress.) After the show, he promptly asks her to dinner where he once again tries to prove that he’s moved on, though we all know he hasn’t. They have such great chemistry!
“I was never the type to die of a broken heart,” Charles says. “I’m sorry if that offends you.” Mary’s just fine, but she has her card to play: “On the contrary. I only hope Tony feels the same.” Charles’ interest is piqued. Mary tells Charles that there’s nothing wrong with Tony. “I want him to be the godfather of my children, just not their father.” (Again, too nice!) Charles says that there’s a way to soften the blow. Is he suggesting that Mary declare Charles the winner of her affections?
[You’ll recall, I’m team Charles, but Mary needs to make a decision, stat. This storyline, and quite a few others, have been playing out for far too long.]
Back at Downton, Tom and Sarah struggle to maintain their friendship. Sarah attends another dinner at the estate, even though we all know it’s not going to end well. Tom asks Sarah to be nice to Robert. “I know you don’t like him, or any of them much, but you forget one thing: They are good to me, in their way, and I love them.” What it comes down to for her: “I can’t bear for you to waste your life propping up a system that’s dying.” Sooo, she’s not going to be nice? Don’t hold your breath.
At dinner Robert brings up Daisy’s lessons and Sarah accuses Robert of not knowing Daisy’s name. He retaliates by accusing her of disrupting Daisy and Mrs. Patmore. Sarah suggests that they defer to the subjects at hand, and Robert takes the bait. Ultimately, Daisy says that Sarah’s teachings have opened her up to a whole new world of possibilities. Robert says he’s pleased, but Sarah continues on. “Are you actually pleased, Robert?”
Mary tells her to give it up, that she’s proved her point, but Sarah persists. Here’s where it really gets ugly: “All I’ve proved is that Lord Grantham would like us serfs to stay in our place from cradle to grave,” Sarah says. Robert stands up and screams at her to never come back. Later, Robert apologizes to Tom, who explains that it was nice to be friends with someone with similar beliefs, but alludes that their friendship might be over now.
NEXT: More trouble for Robert