Downton Abbey recap: Return of the Living Dead
A ghost of Downton’s past threatens Matthew’s future, while an unexpected fatality sends shockwaves below stairs.
Time to lose the uniforms and the frowns. It’s November 1918 and World War I is about to be over like the boned corset. Downton gave a lot — the big library, Thomas’ hand, Matthew’s legs, William’s life, Ethel’s dignity — and while the manse may never go back to how it was before the war, it can now definitely lose that Ping-Pong table. But don’t put Kool & the Gang on the gramophone just yet. Last night’s episode still had schemes, scandal, threats — and maybe even a murder. Only Downton would have so much drama going on during a worldwide ceasefire.
If Robert learned anything in episode 5, it was never let a man stay at your house just because he says he’s a distant relative — even if he’s been badly disfigured in an explosion at the battle of Passchendaele and especially when it turns out he’s claiming to be your cousin’s son who died on the Titanic. Yep, Patrick, the former heir presumptive to Downton, was back. Or so this man, a major in the Canadian army, maintained. And he picked the most vulnerable Crawley sister to tell first: Edith, who had been in love Patrick when he died. She’d walked in on him looking at family photographs in a sitting room when he started saying mysterious things to her like “I’d thought you’d remember me… of course, I sound Canadian now,” and “I know I’ve changed, but even so…” He quietly badgered Edith throughout two scenes until hitting gold: All he had to say was that he’d visited Downton as a child and she guessed he was Patrick Crawley.
The Canadian claimed that he was one of the four men pulled out of the water by Fifth Officer Lowe (a real life hero of the Titanic) after the shipsunk in 1912. Suffering from amnesia, he was misidentified as a Canadian and sent to Montreal. There, he took the surname “Gordon” from a gin bottle (coincidentally, a British gin) and in 1914 joined Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. When he was caught in the explosion — and burned so badly that he became unrecognizable — his memory came back. Edith relayed this to Lord Grantham, who interrogated the soldier himself. The Canadian nearly referred to the Earl as “Robert,” which is what Patrick would have called him. And then he passed his fingers over his lips in a gesture Robert recognized as something Patrick used to do. Case closed, right?
Eh. Robert gathered the family, including Matthew, Isobel, and Richard, for dinner to break the news. (Before he could even start talking, Violet squawks, “Are we talking financial ruin? Criminal investigation?” The Dowager is prepared for anything.) Upon hearing that he might no longer be Downton’s heir, Matthew just made a face that could only be read as “First my legs and now this.” However, Mary’s head exploded. She — like her grandmother said later — was convinced that the Canadian was an opportunist using his unfortunate disfigurement to score a massive fortune. She scolded Edith for believing him and pointed out that he could easily be coming up with things “only Patrick knows” just by being The Mentalist-style observant.
NEXT: Is he or is he not the real Patrick?
Robert’s London lawyers did some digging and Lt. Lowe did save a man who went unidentified. Yet, there was also a fella named Peter Gordon who worked with Patrick Crawley at the Foreign Office and then moved to Montreal is 1913 (how he — or amnesiac Patrick — would have picked up a Canadian accent in only six or seven years is anyone’s guess). This Peter Gordon could have easily known Patrick’s life story. Mary blew her top when they found this out, and when Edith (who was clearly falling for the guy) again countered that the Canadian knew things about Downton that only Patrick could know, she sarcastically guessed them: “I remember how we played … and how we hid in the garden from the nasty governess … what other memories would you have of a childhood spent here?” Sadly, those were the exact things he had told her sister, and from the unhappy look on Edith’s face, you could tell she recognized that too. Robert, who repeatedly looked at Matthew during this whole business, never did get around to telling them about that hand gesture. Matthew, for his part, still insisted that the Canadian would be a better heir presumptive anyway — the soldier may be difficult to look at, but he can walk around the estate and sire a boatload of kids.
When Edith confronted the Canadian, he admitted to having been very close friends with Peter Gordon. It’s here that he seemed to falter, first asking Edith what would happen if the Crawleys found out that Gordon joined Princess Pat’s (suggesting that he was Peter). Next he told her that she is “so sweet you made me think that all things are possible” (also hinting that he was Peter). After which he said “Perhaps the lesson is you can’t go back” (now implying that he was Patrick). Then, when she asserted that they would find Peter Gordon, he replied, “I expect you will” (back to Peter). He skipped town the next day, leaving a note for Edith that read, “It was too difficult, I’m so sorry. P. Gordon.”
“P” for Peter or “P” for Patrick? Edith seemed sure it was the latter. I, myself, couldn’t decide. (If you don’t want to know the real answer, skip to the next paragraph.) But in a press release for this season’s Christmas episode, Laura Carmicheal (a.k.a. Edith Crawley) confessed that “[Edith] had a rough war in the sense that another couple of men have come and gone and she has revisited her feelings for Patrick. Even though I think she knows it wasn’t actually him it’s still really painful that the family didn’t take it seriously.” Thus, the Canadian was definitely not Patrick Crawley — the plotline actually mimicked the real-life 19th century Tichborne incident, when an imposter claimed to be the missing heir to a baronetcy — and if you revisit his scenes, it becomes pretty obvious. When Peter was looking at the Crawleys’ pictures, he was snooping. When he talked to Edith about the past, he always waited for her to fill in the blanks. And when he asked her about Peter Gordon joining Princess Pat’s, he was really admitting his true identity.
NEXT: Carson decides to leave Downton
Poor Edith. If you count Patrick, Anthony Strallan, the farmer, and Peter, that makes four heartbreaks for her in barely two seasons. At least Mary keeps getting hurt by the same guy. A miserable, wheelchair-bound Matthew has moved to the Abbey to be closer to the convalescent home and, therefore, only yards away from Mary. The pair was taking a walk around the estate (Mary pushed, Matthew moped), when vile Richard spied them from the window and first spoke his oft-repeated line of the night, “Should I be worried?” to Robert, who promptly ignored him.
Richard told Robert that he plans to buy a nearby 12,000-acre estate called Haxby Park so that Mary can stay close to Downton. Robert was appalled by his “ghastly plans” for the place — central heating, modern kitchens, and a bathroom in every bedroom. The Earl apparently suffers from what Cora calls the “English hatred of comfort.” Or what I call “having never tried a bidet.” Richard later took Mary to see the manor, where she insulted him nearly every time she spoke (on purchasing furniture: “Your lot buys it, my lot inherits it”). But Richard seemed genuinely soft on her when he asked if they should give the house “another chapter.” He even hatched another plan to make her happy: enticing Carson to leave Downton and run Haxby. (Pilfering a servant, we find out later, is a mark of bad breeding.)
Richard invited Carson to his bedroom — which had devil red walls, red draperies, and a red carpet — and made him a proposal: He’d make more money and get to stay with his favorite Crawley, Lady Mary. The expression on Carson’s face when Richard said, “I’ve made enough money to please myself these days,” was worth a million pounds. You’d think Carson had never heard anything so crass. But he still agreed to consider the move if Lady Mary approved. And did she ever — it was Mary who gave Carson the hard sell, with pronouncements like “If anyone can keep me out of trouble it’s you,” and “With you at the helm there’s much more chance of a smooth crossing.”
NEXT: Matthew tells Mary his is never, ever, ever, going to marry her and we don’t believe him
While on another stroll, Mary told Matthew that she doesn’t have to marry Richard, but he refused her advance. Again. He repeated nearly the same speech he’d given to Lavinia: He will never marry Mary because of his impotence. Then he quoted Rudyard Kipling, saying, “I am the cat that walks by himself and all places are alike to me,” and added, “I have nothing to give and nothing to share.” Matthew’s reservoir of metaphors for being unable to spread his seed is bottomless and his willingness to talk so much about his penis is hilariously un-English.
It wouldn’t have been a walk for Matthew and Mary if Richard hadn’t been spying on them from a window. This time he was with Cora, who assured him that Matthew wouldn’t prevent Mary’s marriage, but Richard was still unconvinced that Mary didn’t want him to. He then channeled O’Brien, hinting to Cora that if Mary wed Matthew they wouldn’t give her grandchildren — but if Mary wed him, she would have loads. Then he suggested that she invite Lavinia back to Downton. And, what do you know, the girl mysteriously arrived a few days later. Mary was stunned. Matthew turned green. And I don’t think Robert ever looked so angry.
Lavinia, dressed in a potato sack but more self-assured than ever, told Matthew that she loved him, wanted to marry him, and won’t be frightened away again. He seemed moved, but a bit disappointed. When Mary suggested to Richard that Matthew might not have wanted to take his former fiancé back, Richard went ballistic. Manhandling Mary, he warned her that if she jilted him, he’d tell the world about her scandalous involvement in the death of Mr. Pamuk. No one crosses vile Richard and gets away with it.
NEXT: Lord Grantham is a bad, bad boy
Robert was livid with Cora for meddling with Mary’s affairs and especially for using poor Lavinia as a pawn — even if it was so they would eventually have grandkids. (Why is she sosure that Edith won’t get married and Sybil won’t have children?) His displeasure is not a good sign: Just scenes before, he was locking eyes with housemaid Jane over his wife’s shoulder. And before that, he’d been having lunch alone, bent out of shape because Cora was too busy to dine with him, when Carson ordered Jane to serve him dessert. She was all smiles and fluttery eyelashes when Lord Grantham asked about her 12-year-old son and offered to put in a good word for him at a topnotch grammar school. Jane’s genuine delight made her look so vibrant that she’d have won anyone over — even if she does sort of resemble Chuck Jones’ Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Carson eventually found them laughing and shoo-ed Jane out of the dining room. “It was my fault. I asked the questions,” Robert said, throwing up his hands and sounding a bit too much like mustachioed Major Bryant when Edith caught him flirting with Ethel. From Carson’s sideways glance, it looked like the butler realized that, too. Crossed fingers that Robert doesn’t get Jane pregnant.
Speaking of Ethel, Carson catches Mrs. Hughes giving her food and makes the head housekeeper confess to Cora. “Men will always be men,” he shakes his head, “but for any young woman to let her judgment so desert her.” If you mull that over, Carson is basically saying it’s okay for him to have sex once in a while, but Mrs. Hughes (who never married) better still be a virgin. Nevertheless, Lady Grantham is sympathetic to abandoned, single mother Ethel. She offers to write Major Bryant a letter asking him to visit Downton, where Robert will appeal to his “better nature.” Too bad he was killed at the Battle of Vittorio Venito before receiving it; I would have liked to see that conversation. At least now Ethel can say her son’s father is dead and not be lying.
NEXT: Bates and Anna get some bad news and then some worse news
What did Anna say to Bates last week about everything being rosy in their garden? As usual, she was speaking way too soon. Mr. Bates’ lawyer informed them that Mrs. Bates has told the judge that he paid her for a divorce — and if the magistrate wants, he can now withdraw the decree nisi. In short, he’s still married. We’ve seen Bates mad before, but not this mad — in O’Brien’s words, he had a “face like thunder.” Like a complete fool, he ranted all throughout Downton, saying things about his former wife like “I wish she was ‘the former.’ Or better still, ‘the late.” So it didn’t look that good when he returned to Downton with a deep scratch on his face after confronting her. And it looked even worse when the telegram arrived saying that Vera was dead. Even Thomas was shocked.
The episode’s final shot was of Vera face down on the floor next to a broken teacup. Presumably she had a heart attack, committed suicide, was murdered by Bates, was murdered by someone else, or was hit by space debris. I’m going to rule out possibility number one because this is Downton Abbey and that would be way too dull. Number two can’t be it because if Vera wanted to frame Bates for her murder, she’d also want to stay around to gloat when he went to jail. Number five is ridiculous. So all we have left are possibilities three and four: murder, by Bates or another enemy. I write this now and I’m going to stick with it: The killer was either O’Brien or vile Richard (or both, Gosford Park-style). Why was O’Brien so interested in Bates’ troubles, asking him endless questions and eavesdropping on his conversations (or as she calls it, “fetching my button box”)? Because she was worried that Vera might bring shame to Cora. O’Brien could have killed Vera to shut her up once and for all. And Richard had threatened Vera with retribution if she sold Mary’s story to anyone else. If she did — or wanted to — tell the public about Mr. Pamuk, Richard could have murdered her for the same reason. After all, he was late for dinner that night. His excuse: “We got stuck in Royston and a cart had overturned in Baldock.” Yeah, sure.
NEXT: Downton readies for life after the war
The end of World War I was a happy thing for everyone, but it also marked “the dawn of a new age,” which has its own challenges. When Downton celebrated the ceasefire by gathering for a moment of silence, you could almost see Thomas being demoted from acting sergeant (thank god pimp Pattmore was around to tell him about the black market). Cora will get her house back, but she’ll need Violet’s continued machinations to keep Isobel from turning it into a recreation center for the public (last night, Violet tricked Isobel into temporarily abandoning those plans in order to help war refugees). Sybil must finally decide if she’s going to run away to Ireland with Branson (she promised him she’d make her mind up when the war ended). When the soldiers leave Downton, Edith will lose her purpose once again. Daisy will have to find a way to live with the fact that she wed William on his deathbed — and stop slamming down the crockery or running in and out of every room crying. Mary will have to marry Richard. (Violet’s best quip of the night: “I don’t dislike him. I just don’t like him, which is quite different.) And Matthew is going to have to cheer up, move on, and do something about that tingle he had in his pants when Bates was pushing his wheelchair. Assumedly, he had felt something in his legs (indicating he wasn’t completely paralyzed), but I’d like to think he also felt hmmmm….hmmm in his hmmm…hmmm so that seed spreading is definitely in his future.
Tell me your thoughts on Patrick/Peter, Edith’s broken heart, Mrs. Bates’ death, Carson’s departure, Lord Grantham’s roving eye, Richard’s bad attitude, and anything else in the comments below.
The war is over, but intrigue, crisis, romance, and change still grip the beloved estate.