Charles and his friend, an art historian named Simon Bricker, visit the estate, Edith becomes “godmother” to Marigold, and Robert and Mr. Carson move forward with the memorial.

By C. Molly Smith
January 12, 2015 at 03:01 AM EST
Nick Briggs
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Last week’s season premiere focused largely on changing times, the collision of old and new. It got off to a pretty promising start, creating a nice framework for the rest of the season. This week’s episode very much continues in line with that general theme, but it also focuses on relationships (romantic or otherwise), and the secrecy (or lack thereof) that surrounds them.

The most secretive relationship of the group, perhaps, is that of Mary and Tony. Everyone knows they’re interested in each other, but, nobody, albeit Mary’s trusting lady’s maid, Anna, knows that Mary isn’t about to go off on a sketching trip with a friend. No, she is going to spend a week with Tony… as his lover. This rendezvous, however, is complicated by two things: birth control and Charles Blake. First, Mary doesn’t want to have any “consequences” after spending time with Tony. Afraid of being recognized, she sends Anna to town to buy contraceptives for her. The experience is, in short, incredibly awkward. (The judgment on the shopkeeper’s face alone is enough to make you keep it in your pants.) Still, Anna makes it out with the goods in hand.

Second, there’s Charles Blake, Mary’s other love interest. He writes to Cora, saying that he has a friend, an art historian named Simon Bricker, who’d like to see a Piero della Francesca painting in their possession. The pair come to visit, and Mary and Charles have the talk: Who did she pick, Tony or Charles? She needn’t answer. Charles confesses he’s upset, that it’s obvious that he isn’t “the lucky winner.” Even so, he’s not giving up. Later, he tells Mary that he’ll be happy for her if she’s truly happy, but asks that she’s absolutely sure before making a final decision.

Charles’ case against Tony: “You’re cleverer than he is,” Charles says. “That might have worked in the last century when ladies had to hide their brains behind good manners and good breeding, but not now.” This really gets under her skin. “I’m not some overheated housemaid drooling over a photograph of Douglas Fairbanks,” she says. Charles implies she might be when it comes to sex.

“Are we talking about sex or love,” Mary asks. “That is the question mankind has been wrestling with since the dawn of time,” Charles responds. Despite all this, Mary still makes her way to Liverpool to be with Tony—actually to “make love all night… as long as either of us has any stamina left,” according to her newfound lover—but one has to wonder if he’ll be the one in the end.

[Aside: After last week’s episode, I was Team Tony, but this episode has me thinking Charles might, and should, be the winner of Mary’s heart. He’s clever and challenges her, pushing her in a way Tony doesn’t. Perhaps the week with Tony will make her absolutely sure that he isn’t it. Back to the recap…]

The estate’s other visitor, Simon, strikes a flirtation with Cora. He says everything at Downton is beautiful, clearly alluding Cora. Robert can tell that something is going on, prompting him to tell Cora that Simon needs to stop flirting with Isis. Again, a clear allusion to Cora. (Aside: I demand more Isis this season! That lab is right up there with the Dowager Countess as far as my favorite characters are concerned.) Not much happened beyond a few small exchanges, but Richard E. Grant, the actor who plays Bricker, is set for four episodes on the show. It’s probably safe to assume that this flirtation, and subsequent strife, will continue on.

NEXT: Edith comes up with a plan to hide her secret—in plain sight

Edith also has a secret, a big one: She had a child, Marigold, out of wedlock with the still-missing Michael Gregson. While the circumstances are under wraps, the fact that she has a relationship with Marigold is no longer. Last week, Tim, the local farmer who is raising Marigold, suggested that they slowly introduce the idea of Edith being involved in Marigold’s life. This week, while Edith is visiting Marigold at the Drewe house, Tim brings up the idea of Edith becoming a godmother to Marigold. She would take an active interest in the child and also assist financially. His wife, Margie, says all the niceties, but clearly isn’t on board. Later, she tells Tim she fears Edith will treat Marigold like a doll in a dollhouse and will abandon her when she loses interest. (Little does Margie know…) Not to mention, Margie has, presumably, grown attached to Marigold and doesn’t want to see her go, let alone at the hands of a privileged lady.

When Edith brings the idea up to Cora and Robert, they’re supportive. Robert basically tells her it’s your money, do what you want, but you can’t ditch a kid when you’re bored. (Little does Robert know…) Later, Cora asks Robert what he truly thinks of Edith’s generosity. He says it’s likely that Michael is dead (Is he? Can we get a definite answer on that?), and Edith, who has seen her sisters’ children grow up right before her, probably just wants someone to love. He worries, though, that there will be trouble when Edith has a child of her own (nope, that’s already covered), or that Drewe will get sick of her (if anything, Margie will be the problem).

Last week, upon the suggestion of Molesley, Baxter finally came clean about her past. She told Cora that she stole jewelry from her previous employer and went to jail for it. Baxter, however, wasn’t quite ready to tell sweet, supportive Molesley. Insert Thomas, who lives to uncover secrets and spoil everything. When Baxter asks Molesley why he’s been so distant, he tells her that he knows her secret, but he’s convinced that there was an explanation to her actions. (He starts to cry, and let me say, Molesley crying is absolutely heartbreaking. Sorry, Edith. You have nothing on your footman.) There has to be something more to the story, right? Maybe someone close to her really needed the money and she was trying to help out? Baxter says she’s nothing but a common thief, but says she’s not that person now. They talk again, and Molesley is still convinced that there was a reason behind it. Baxter says no, that she only wishes she could rewrite what happened, but she can’t, even for Molesley. She won’t even tell Cora—who is still deciding the fate of her employment—why she did it. (My bet: There’s a reason, but Baxter doesn’t want to make excuses for herself. It’ll probably come to light at some point, though.)

Upon the suggestion of Mrs. Patmore, Sarah begins tutoring Daisy. Rose and Cora discover Sarah is in the house, and tell Tom to invite her to dinner. She declines the request, believing her presence would cause a stir, again. Before leaving, though, she gives Tom a sort of pep talk: He can do anything he wants, and that he has a future, just not at Downton. She pleads with him to remember the man who freed Sybil. He says he wants to, but isn’t sure that he can be that man again—she is sure. This pep talk seems to be just the extra push Tom needed. At dinner, Robert cracks a joke about how they’re lucky Sarah didn’t come to dinner. If she had, she would have gone on about how the Russian aristocrats deserve their refugee status. Tom defends Sarah, saying he agrees with her. To him, the old regime was unfair, and he hopes the new one is just. (The look on Mr. Carson’s as he says this, LOL.) Later, Robert expresses concern over Tom’s outburst, believing that Sarah is a ventriloquist controlling what Tom says. Cora’s theory: Sarah has given Tom the confidence to express how he really feels. Even so, Robert is concerned that Tom will run off with his oldest grandchild. How will Tom and Sarah’s relationship move forward from here? Will Tom actually leave Downton? Helloooooo, intrigue.

The tension between Robert and Mr. Carson over where to build the memorial is certainly no secret. Robert wants it to be in town while Mr. Carson wants it to be in a cricket field. Later, Mrs. Hughes sides with Robert and Mr. Carson can’t believe it! At some point, though, the memorial has to find its home. Mr. Carson declares that he won’t stand in the way of the memorial being held in town, but he needs to be convinced that that’s where it belongs. While searching for a potential spot for the memorial in the town’s center, they come across a woman whose son is visiting his father’s grave, just across the street. She explains that it’s nice for him to get to stop by often, to remember him. It clearly makes an impression. The memorial will be in town, and Mr. Carson gets back on good terms with Robert, and, more importantly, Mrs. Hughes. He says he doesn’t like being in disagreement with her, and she’s flattered. “When you talk like that you make me want to check the looking glass to make sure my hair is tidy,” she says. Remember when they held hands on the beach during the season 4 finale? Maybe, hopefully, they’ll do it again.

NEXT: Other Things of Note

Russian Refugees

Rose becomes involved in charity work to help Russian refugees who were displaced by the Bolshevik Revolution. Many refugees found themselves in England. Here, there’s the potential for continued political debate between Robert, Tom, and, possibly, Sarah. Moreover, this is certainly something to pay attention to as Rade Sherbedgia will soon join the cast as Prince Kuragin, a friend of Violet’s and a Russian refugee.

The Wireless

Throughout the episode, Rose gives Robert a number of not-so-subtle hints that she’d like a wireless at Downton. Cora doesn’t see why he won’t end poor Rose’s suffering. “That’s because you’re American, but I’m not, and I find the whole idea a kind of thief of life,” Robert says. Love those Downton digs at America. (Speaking of America: Bring back Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti! Give the people what they want!) Robert finally caves, upon discovering that the king is going to address the country through the medium. When the wireless finally arrives, everyone tunes in to listen to the king. The act is met with mixed reactions. Mrs. Hughes and Isobel, for example, like how it humanizes the king, while Violet loathes the idea of it. Still, Robert decides to keep the wireless. How progressive, Robert.

Lord Merton’s Tea

Violet, Isobel, and Dr. Clarkson have tea together. There, they discuss an invitation to another tea: Lord Merton wants to host Violet and Isobel at his home. Violet continues to tease Isobel about her admirer. Isobel finally says she’s sick of being teased. That doesn’t stop Violet from making a handful of jokes at Lord Merton’s tea. Perhaps Violet is trying to annoy Isobel out of any interest she had in Lord Merton so that Isobel won’t become of higher status.

Thomas’ Good Side

Jimmy tells Thomas that he’s been a good friend, and that he’s sorry he put him through so much. Thomas, of course, was previously interested in Jimmy. Seeing Jimmy leave the estate—he was being fired for going to bed with Lady Anstruther—could not have been easy. Though he’s scheming and mean, you have to have a little sympathy for the guy. Later, Anna says to Thomas that it must be hard for him with Jimmy gone, and even though Thomas disagrees, she says Thomas must have meant a lot to Jimmy. Thomas, in one of his more honest moments, says he knows he can be unlikable and that it might sound funny, but sometimes he just wishes he could belong. Anna doesn’t find it funny at all. Perhaps we’ll see a change in attitude from Thomas.

HUGE PLOT TWIST

In this week’s shocker, a policeman shows up at the estate, asking Mr. Carson if he remembers, Mr. Green. He does, of course. The policeman says something turned up, and they want to determine its significance. Mrs. Hughes—now in full panic mode because she believes Bates killed Green, and she covered for him—asks what it could be. His response: a witness! Finally, we’re going to get some answers, here.

Best Exchange:

Isobel: “Mrs. Hughes is right. The radio somehow makes the king more real.”

Violet: “Is it a good thing? The monarchy has thrived on magic and mystery, strip them away and people may think the royal family is just like us.”

Isobel: “Would that be so wrong?”

Violet: “Only if they want to stay back in Buckingham Palace.”

The Dowager Countess’ Best Lines:

“Isobel has been distracted lately with Lord Merton frisking around her skirt and getting in the way.”

“I may be older than I was, but I can still tell when a man is interested.”

“Mrs. Crawley is never happier than when she has a chance to use her guiding hand.”

And in case you missed it last week:

The war is over, but intrigue, crisis, romance, and change still grip the beloved estate.
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