After last week’s welcome farewell to Ms. Bunting, we move onto a long-expected, but terrible good-bye for Edith. A telegram arrives at the big house for her, announcing that her editor will be arriving from London shortly, bringing good news no doubt. Maybe Marigold has started speaking and asked for her real mommy in perfect English. But since this is Edith we’re talking about, everyone correctly assumes that the tidings are ill and more specifically, have to do with the missing Michael Gregson. The most likely outcome was the truth all along. Gregson died shortly after arriving in Munich, during the Nazi party’s Beer Hall Putsch. I mean, it was only a matter of time before Downton perpetrated its first Hitler name drop, right?
(Up until the bitter, it felt like the show was saving this as a possible card to play for a major twist. Everything from Gregson’s invisible, unwell wife to his sudden disappearance stank of red herring, but for now, this storyline will go into the Peter Gordon Hall of Anticlimax.)
The editor from London also reveals that Edith has inherited the publishing company from Gregson, which will hopefully distract her from the baby she’s trying to kidnap. Edith then immediately marches off to Yew Tree Farm to see Marigold. When Mrs. Drewe tells her that she cannot see the child—no matter how bad the day has been going—Edith calls her “rude,” which—I believe—is a use of the more archaic definition meaning “behavior a rich person doesn’t like.”
Downstairs, the staff of Downton Abbey continues to delight by being a nice group of people that enjoy helping each other out.
Following her decision to go ahead and just buy a damn cottage last week, Mrs. Patmore invites Mrs. Hughes to come with her to inspect the place. Carson, hoping to smooth things over after the nasty business with Mrs. Patmore’s nephew and the war memorial, asks to come along. Despite having an “outside privy,” the cottage is more than sufficient for Mrs. Patmore, opening up the door to one of my other dream spin-offs, Mrs. P’s Place, about the hilarious tenants of her future boarding house. The trip inspires Carson to do some of his own contemplation of the future, and he asks Mrs. Hughes if she’s thought about her retirement, something she doesn’t consider a possibility. Fat chance, Mrs. Hughes. Don’t discount the surly sweetness of Mr. Carson, who asks if she would like to invest in a property with him “as a business venture.” She stalls. He leaves. She smiles. The hearts of the PBS-watching audience explode.
Daisy, literally the one person who is upset about Ms. Bunting leaving, has turned her former tutor’s departure into motivation to continue her studies, though she misses the confidence an instructor instilled. For the past two weeks, Molesley has repeatedly offered his resources to Daisy, and she has responded by ignoring him or being rude. [Note: “Rude” meaning actual impoliteness, not Edith’s definition.] Honestly, what would Daisy do without Mrs. Patmore as a moral compass? After being told that, yes, you should be nice to people who are kind to you, Daisy actually listens to what Molesley has to say. He offers to let her use the encyclopedias that his father gave to him, and we get the sweet, sad story of Molesley’s early life. He had quit school at 12 to help support his family after his mother got sick, despite his father’s wishes that he become a teacher. “I’d like to help,” Molesley tells Daisy. “Make sure somebody got away.” Can we please give Molesley his Baxter-centric happy ending already?!
NEXT: Doctor Clarkson, self-esteem doctor
Speaking of Baxter, she saves Barrow’s life, even though a slightly colder person would have been like, “Nah, don’t care.” You see, Sargent Willis and Mr. Vyne from Scotland Yard returned to Downton on an anonymous tip. Somehow, the secret Baxter held about the Bateses that bothered Barrow so much made its way to the authorities. The police threaten Baxter with the years remaining on her prison sentence—which Mrs. Hughes knew nothing about—if she doesn’t offer up what she knows. Baxter admits to knowing of a problem between Mr. Green and Mr. and Mrs. Bates and a vague notion of a secret trip to London. Seems like a perfect time for Barrow to come asking for help, doesn’t it? His Tobias Funke-like downward spiral has culminated in a festering sore on his bum. Because she’s Baxter, she’s really cool about it, even though she knows he was the one who sent the note.
They scoop up the pills and liquid that Barrow has been injecting and go off to see that sex god in waiting, Dr. Clarkson. It turns out that Barrow had been using an anti-homosexuality regimen of saline injections. Dr. Clarkson, the sage and kind man he is, says that there is no “fixing” himself. “My advice to you, Thomas, would be to accept the burden that chance has seen fit to lay upon you and to fashion a good a life as you’re able,” he says. “Remember harsh reality is always better than false hope.” And this guy is still single somehow.
Which reminds me, Isobel has accepted Lord Merton’s proposal, justifying the choice to Violet as her last chance at an adventure. I have two problems with this. 1) I think the implication here is that Isobel will die someday, and that is an implication I very much resent. 2) How is riding on the back of a jet ski with Dr. Clarkson not considered an adventure? Anyway, she hasn’t told the family yet, so maybe there’s still time.
Back in the constant stream of rotten luck that is the Bateses married life, Mr. Bates finds Lady Mary’s birth control in his cottage and justifiably presumes that it’s Anna’s, proving that there are few things that Mary can’t find a way to ruin. Anna, who has always claimed to want lots of babies, now appears to be avoiding carrying the child of a potential murderer, but here’s the thing. Bates didn’t kill Mr. Green, even though everyone would have been totally cool with that. He tells his wife that, yes, he had planned on killing Tony Gillingham’s valet once he reasoned the true story of what happened to Anna, but he didn’t go through with it, knowing that he’d hang for it. That supposedly incriminating return ticket to London was actually an innocence-proving one because it was never used and therefore never torn by the ticket agent. Anna is really, really, really happy that Bates is innocent, and I am too. Bates in jail makes for bad Downton, but there’s still the matter of the ongoing murder investigation.
Another investigation is approaching its close, however. Shrimpy has nearly located the missing Russian princess, so Violet takes her new lady’s maid, the too-good-to-wash-underwear Ms. Denker, to tell Prince Kuragin. Apparently, their meeting “is not their first secret assignation.” Translation: They probably did it at some point. And what woman doesn’t want to hear that a man would totally tap that if his dumb wife wasn’t still alive? Prince Kuragin, you old romantic!
NEXT: Do you smell what Cora is cooking?
Robert is still being weird to Cora. That tiny dustup with Mr. Bricker has kept him in his tiny dressing room bed for too many nights, and Cora wants him back. But how can he return to bed with the woman who invited another man into her private life, purposely or not? Uh oh. Watch out. I feel a smackdown coming. Cora throws the gauntlet down, asking if he can honestly say that he never flirted with a woman or gave someone the wrong impression. Hmm. Has anything like that ever happen? Oh, yeah. Jane, the maid that Robert kissed while Cora was laid up in bed with the Spanish Flu. Utterly and completely owned! Robert returns to bed. Game, set, Cora.
Ugh, fine. I’ll talk about Mary now.
She gets a haircut, a very modern one, in order to make both Tony Gillingham and William Blake jealous, even though she’s not interested in either man. Ugh, Mary. Before the do’s big reveal, Rose tells Atticus, who is meeting the family for the first time, that he will love Mary, but I’m still not sure why Rose would lie about that, though. Anyway, Mary comes out, and Granny gets a good one-liner in. “Oh, it’s you,” she says. “I thought it was a man wearing your clothes.” Classic Countess comeback. And while I’m not looking to get into the business of agreeing with Edith, she does have a point about Mary making a big show of her haircut so shortly after the news of Michael Gregson’s death. She could at least pretend to give a shit.
“All this endless thinking. It’s very overrated. I blame the war. Before 1914, nobody thought about anything at all.”
I agree, Violet. Let’s watch some horses run around instead! That’s what Atticus has invited the family to do at the point-to-point. Both Charles Blake and Tony Gillingham are participating in the steeplechase, so Mary decides that she’s going to mess with them a bit more by also joining in. But who is this?! Well if it isn’t the character I wish would show up more often: Miss Lane Fox. Mabel is riding too, but not before a few cheeky exchanges with Mary at the starting line. Those few seconds of dialogue are the most likable Mary has been in a long time and why Mabel should become more of a fixture on the show. Mary, as a character, needs a counterpoint, and right now those are in short order because of her recent man problems. Edith is too sad to stand up for herself, but Mabel fits that role beautifully as her bitter, intellectual equal.
After the race, Mabel and Tony show signs of a rekindled flame, and the Crawleys meet Atticus’ family for the first time. In the background of that conversation, Isobel remarks to Violet that Rose won’t have to convert, a comment that confuses the Dowager Countess and sets up a classic Downton “Weren’t the olden days racist!” moment. Well, Violet, they’re Jewish. “There’s always something, isn’t there?”
While the family is out watching horses run around, Edith springs into action. She’s going to steal that baby! Naturally, Mrs. Drewe is rather upset by the upper-class woman laying claim to the daughter she raised, birth certificate or no, and honestly, it’s a gut-wrenching scene. Downton typically is a show about nice people and the bad things that happen to them. This may be the worst thing any of the characters has actively done, up there with O’Brien and the bar of soap. I can’t begrudge Edith for wanting to be with her daughter, especially now that Gregson is definitely out of the picture, but this is wrong on every level.
And yet in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters because something is wrong with Isis. She’s just kind of lying there, looking fat. Robert insists she can’t be pregnant, but I’m going to hope for puppies instead of death. Always hope for puppies instead of death.