It's all about the ladies of Downton as Mary (finally) makes a decision about Tony and Cora has a night out on the town.

By C. Molly Smith
January 19, 2015 at 03:02 AM EST
Nick Briggs
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Pretty much everyone in Downton Abbey has drama (at all times, forever), but tonight it focused more so on the females of the house.

Let’s start with Mary. The episode opens with Mary and Tony in bed—post sexscapade—in the Liverpool hotel where they’d spent time together, getting to know each other so that Mary could be sure that Tony is the one. Tony wants her to stay and asks if it’d be so bad if they were found out. He doesn’t think it will matter as they will be walking down the aisle soon anyway. Mary, insisting that they do things the proper way, says she won’t be walking down the aisle soon (uh oh) and that it does matter. “I’ve been tarnished once and won’t be tarnished again,” Mary says, of course referring to the incident with the Turk. Just as she’s leaving to go home, Spratt, Violet’s butler, spots Mary and Tony outside of the hotel. Suspicions arise.

Back at Violet’s, Spratt, who had been in Liverpool for his niece’s wedding tells Violet what he saw. Violet makes up an excuse, saying that Mary and Tony were attending a land owner’s conference, adding that she knew they were there. “What did you imagine you were witnessing,” Violet asks Spratt. “Nothing vulgar I hope. Nothing beneath the dignity of a butler of this house.” Poor Spratt. He’s spot on, and is made to look like a royal idiot. When he leaves the room, Violet is clearly distressed. She soon calls Mary and asks her to visit.

Upon Mary’s return home, Anna asks how the trip went and when the wedding will be. Mary says no date has been set, but that there’s no need to rush into it. (Double uh oh. Perhaps Mary is stalling and doesn’t actually want to marry Tony?) Mary asks Anna to hide the contraceptive in the cottage. It can’t be found in the house. Anna says she feels she’s aiding in a sin and that she doesn’t want to pay for it. Anna won’t, for the time being at least. Mary, on the other hand, has to face her grandmother.

Mary goes to visit Violet, who confronts her about her rendezvous. Mary says the news must be shocking to someone of Violet’s generation. “Don’t let us hide behind the changing times my dear,” Violet says. “This is shocking to most people in 1924.” She adds that she doesn’t want this happening again, and Mary reassures her that it won’t. She asks if there’s any chance of a proposal. Violet feels better upon discovering that Tony had already proposed and that he wants to set a date.

Violet is momentarily more at ease. But when Mary tells her she’s not sure when it will be, Violet tells her, get a move on it, girl! “If I was seduced by a man, I would not let any grass grow under his feet if he offered to do the decent thing,” Violet says. Mary maintains that she wasn’t seduced. “A young woman of good family who finds herself in the bed of a man who is not her husband has invariably been seduced,” Violet retorts, sassily. Mary asks, couldn’t she have acted out of her own free will? “Not if she’s the daughter of an Earl,” Violet says. Oh, snap.

Later, Mary tells Tom that she thinks she’s unsettled on Tony. (Triple uh oh! Could her talk with Charles prior to the trip have something to do with it? Is Tony not clever enough for her?) “He’s a nice man, a very nice man, but not, of course we talked about things, but I think my judgment was rather clouded by…,” Mary says, looking for the words. Tom helps her out: “What Ms. Elinor Glyn likes to write about in her novels.” Because Glyn was a writer whose romantic-fiction novels were deemed scandalous at the time, that’s quite the helping word choice from Tom.

NEXT: Cora’s Night Out

Next up is Cora: She has less of a romantic problem. Instead, she’s struggling to find her purpose. She confesses to Robert that she misses how useful and busy she was during the war. “You can’t wish those days back again,” Robert says. No, of course not, but Cora wants to do something important again. So, she asks Robert about a new real estate proposal. Maybe that’s something she can be involved in? “Nothing to trouble you with,” Robert says, dismissively.

Later, Cora goes to London and looks at other Piero della Francesca works with Simon Bricker. Cora is impressed at how Francesca’s work has been remembered for centuries. She believes she, and the things she did, won’t be remembered at all. Simon isn’t having any of her self-deprecation. He compliments Cora, telling her that she has an instinct for art, and invites her to dinner so they can continue their discussions. Though at first she protests—a lady can’t be underdressed!—she accepts Simon’s invitation.

When Cora returns to Rosamund’s home, where she’s staying during her visit, she discovers none other than Robert. He’s waiting for her in the living room, all dressed up and ready to go out, though it’s too late for that now. He’d come to London to surprise Cora with dinner reservations, just to find that she’s been out to dinner with another man, Simon. He’s pissed, understandably.

Cora tells Robert the dinner was innocent, that she and Simon were merely discussing Francesca’s paintings over a meal. Robert isn’t buying it, which prompts Cora to ask if her story is so hard to believe. “That an art expert would find your observations on Piero della Francesca impossible to resist, yes,” Robert says. “It is hard to believe.” Not cool, Robert. Cora says she’s going to bed, but she’s not going down so easily. Later, she tells Robert she’s upset that he doesn’t value her opinions. I imagine this battle of perspectives will continue. (Not saying Robert was in line—but Simon was clearly flirting with Cora, right?)

Cora is having multiple hard conversations in this episode: Baxter asks her if she’s made a decision about her employment. Cora tells her she needs the other half of the story in order to give her an answer. Baxter has a day to fess up, which she will provided her terms are met as well. Baxter’s terms: Her story, once its told, must immediately go back underground, never to be spoken of again. Cora accepts Baxter’s condition, and Baxter tells her. (Warning: Like many secrets on the show, this isn’t as bad as it was built up to be.)

A footman, Peter Coyle, who Baxter worked with convinced her to steal the jewels. She was enamored with him, and because of that, she couldn’t see how cruel he was. She does now. He handed in his notice and wanted all of their employer’s jewels. Baxter only took some. He told Baxter to meet him the next day, but never showed, of course. He got away clean, and Baxter took all the blame for the robbery. She never confessed his involvement because she was ashamed that she let him change her. Cora suggested she tell the police now, but Baxter won’t do it. Even so, Cora decides to let Baxter stay at Downton.

And it continues to be all about the women in this episode—Edith’s role as “godmother” is tested. In previous episodes, we’ve seen glimpses of Margie’s annoyance. In this episode, though, we see Margie at her wit’s end. Edith agrees to babysit Marigold while Tim and Margie are busy. When Margie returns from her errands, she can’t find Edith and Marigold anywhere and starts running around, panicked. She finds Tim, Edith, and Marigold out by the chicken coop. When Edith leaves, Margie tells Tim she’s had enough. She thought Edith had run off with Marigold! She’s sorry that Edith is lonely and without a child, but that she can’t keep pestering them the way she’s been. She even accuses Tim of having feelings for Edith. Tim later tells Edith that she needs to back off, for now. Edith can’t be a mother, publicly, and now she can’t even act as godmother—she no longer has a place in Marigold’s life.

Edith comes running and crying through the house just as Rose brings a number of Russian refugees to the estate for tea. Tony shows up for a surprise visit, which prompts Mary to tell Violet that she won’t be rushed into anything. “If you were uncertain, why on earth did you go to bed with him,” Violet asks. “In my day a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she’s been instructed to do so.” (Is Violet’s sass just pent-up sexual tension?) She adds that Mary needs to get a grip on her feelings. Mary’s drama, however, isn’t the only kind going down at the tea.

Rose invites Sarah to the tea after seeing her downstairs in the kitchen with Daisy. Robert is pissed that she’s there, a feeling that was validated for him when Sarah, like clockwork, sets off one of the Russians with her politics. He demands to leave, but Cora convinces him to stay. Violet, along with her husband, attended the wedding of Queen Victoria’s son, Alfred, and the Grand Duchess Maria in St. Petersburg. Cora wants to show the guests mementos from the wedding. Violet starts reminiscing about a fan that had been given to her by another wedding guest. PLOT TWIST: He’s there, in the room! Prince Kuragin is one of the refugees. Violet is clearly shocked by his appearance. They have some sort of connection, but what it is exactly is unknown.

“Granny has a past,” Mary jokes. “Thank god Papa and Aunt Rosamund were already born or we could spin all sorts of tales.” Later, Violet tells Mary to give her a break. “Stop giving me such knowing looks,” Violet says. “I met the prince when I was traveling with your grandfather. Nothing could have been more respectable.” Mary jokes that Violet understands her romantic dilemma much more than she led her to believe. Isobel, who had been teased by Violet for weeks for her love interest, Lord Merton, finally got the last laugh. The episode ends with Isobel’s quip: “Have you made plans to see your admirer again?”

NEXT: Other Things of Note

Thomas’ Advertisement

Thomas makes a mysterious call about an advertisement, something about choosing your own path. He later lies to Mr. Carson and says his father is on his deathbed and he has to go if he wants to see his father alive. What is Thomas up to? Last episode we saw him speaking with Anna about how he knows he can be unlikable and how sometimes he just wants to belong. Could he be turning a new leaf?

Archie’s Memorial

Mrs. Patmore’s nephew, Archie, had been shot in the war for cowardice. His town, Farsley, is creating a memorial, but his name is going to be left off. “It makes his death nothing at all,” she says. She hopes his name might be added to the one Robert and Mr. Carson have been working on, attributing his inclusion to his familial connection, Mrs. Patmore. The move would offer a good reason why his name was left off the Farsley memorial. She pleads with Mrs. Hughes to ask Mr. Carson. Mrs. Hughes talks to Mr. Carson, but he wants nothing to do with it, thinking it would be unfair to the men who didn’t run away, which doesn’t go over well with Mrs. Patmore, of course.

Daisy’s Schooling

Daisy has been keeping up with her schooling, and it seems to be going well. She asks Mr. Carson if he would be okay with her taking a school examination. He says it’s a question for Mrs. Patmore, but she persists. Would you be okay with it, Mr. Carson? “Since you asked, I’m not convinced that any of this extra work is necessary for your place in the scheme of things.” Mrs. Hughes was already upset about the memorial, but this really sets her off. “My advice, Daisy, is to go as far in life as God and luck allow.” My bet is that this tension between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson will continue, eventually leading to a major clashing of views.

Downton’s Real Estate Offer, Tom’s Independence

Tom says a building company has been in touch. They want to build 50 modest houses at Pips Corner, which is on the estate, to provide better access to the center of the village. They would build at the corner, and Downton would take a percentage of their sales. He thinks it’s a good deal, but Robert isn’t into it. “I won’t have 50 ugly, modern houses built over a field of mine,” Robert says. It’s moments like these, when Robert dismisses Tom, where you can see why Tom feels like he doesn’t fit in. Later, Tom says he’ll back Mary up about unsettling on Tony if she backs him up. She asks if it’s about Sarah or moving to America. She says she isn’t keen on Sarah and that she doesn’t want Tom to go. He says if she loves him, she’ll support him. She says she will. (But actually, is Tom moving to America?!)

The Investigation of Mr. Green’s Murder

Sergeant Willis returns to the estate to discuss what the witness heard, which was Mr. Green asking, “Why have you come.” Green complained of a fight at Downton to his coworkers and also said he didn’t like Bates. Sergeant Willis asks Bates for an alibi, which he gives, but Mrs. Hughes is concerned that there are flaws in it, and that the police might return for him. Throughout all of this, Anna is concerned that her secret will be uncovered. She’s sure that Bates didn’t know Green was the one who assaulted her, but if the police were to find out what happened, it would give Bates a motive. Expect this to unravel further…

Best Lines:

Isobel: “Servants are human beings, too.”

Violet: “Yes, but preferably only on their days off.”

The Dowager Countess’ Best Lines:

“What’s the latest from your raging Romeo?”

“A young woman of good family who finds herself in the bed of a man who is not her husband has invariably been seduced.”

Episode Recaps

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