Nearing the end of another season of Downton Abbey, we face a series of high highs (Rose and Atticus!) and low lows (that bastard, Larry Grey). There’s lots to dissect, so let’s jump right in!
Oh, I have to wade into this Edith business? Maybe no recap this week… All right, fine. Here we go.
Rosamund arrives in town to help deal with Edith’s disappearance/newfound hobby of kidnapping, and Violet meets her. The dowager countess hasn’t slept all night, wrestling with the question of what to do. She decides that it’s Cora’s right to know what happened to her daughter, but Robert doesn’t need to know. “He’s a man,” she says. “Men don’t have rights.” Man, the dowager countess was way ahead of her time. She was hip to “meninist” foolishness back in the 1920s.
Despite Edith taking off with a baby that she previously gave away, the guests, including Tony Gillingham, Charlies Blake, and Mabel Lane Fox, are still coming. Tom found out that Edith must be in London because she bought a ticket for King’s Cross. Tony and Charles are like, “Uhh, should we go?” But there are so many other guests coming that they can’t put off the dinner. It would send up red flags that something is wrong. Once Violet arrives to the house, she insists on taking Cora out to the garden to tell her the truth about Edith, but Mrs. Drewe arrives before she can get her daughter-in-law alone. Robert offers to go for a walk in her stead, and Violet responds perfectly. “Why would I want to walk?” she asks. Off-screen, Mrs. Drewe drops the bomb, and suffice it to say that Cora is pissed. Mrs. Drewe told her everything, including that Rosamund and Violet know. “Mrs. Drewe was being difficult,” explains Rosamund, who would probably describe a mugging victim as “annoyingly protective of her purse.” As mad as she is, Cora isn’t telling Robert. She suggests finding Edith and seeing what she wants. But isn’t Edith getting what she wants what started this whole problem in the first place?
The secret keepers find out from Atticus that they can find Edith through the magazine editor. Cora decides to go see her daughter and granddaughter in London, but before she goes, she implies that she can’t trust Violet anymore. “On the contrary,” Violet says when Rosamund comes to her defense, “It’s the most honest thing she’s ever said to me.” True to Atticus’ tip, Edith is at the magazine office. Over lunch, she explains her rough plan to her aunt and mother. Edith was going to drop her title, invent a dead husband, and move to America, somewhere like Chicago or Detroit. Edith, take it from me, someone from the future, those two ain’t equal. She would have left already, but she feels responsibility to the magazine Michael Gregson left her, and she wants Marigold to grow up English. Cora has a plan of her own. She suggests slandering the Drewes by saying that they took on a child they can’t care for and raising Marigold in the Downton nursery. Edith agrees, but doesn’t want Lord Grantham or Mary to know. Cora disagrees about keeping Robert in the dark, but relents. She’ll call Mr. Drewe that evening to help. When Rosamund asks about the ever-“rude” Mrs. Drewe, Edith replies, “Let him manage her.”
It’s taken a few episodes to come to this conclusion, but I can’t shake the feeling that the show expects us to agree with everyone who finds Mrs. Drewe annoying, which is troubling. All that poor woman did was care for someone else’s child as her own and then try to protect that child when a stranger came to take her away. What a monster!
NEXT: Bring ‘er on home
The plan almost goes off without a hitch. The trio return to Downton, drop Marigold with Mr. Drewe, and then lie to the rest of the family. The only snag happens when Mary appears at the station, but I’m more concerned about why Mr. Drewe would ever help them. He rides to the next station to avoid Mary seeing them, but Anna totally saw. At the abbey, the family isn’t so keen to the idea Edith puts forward, of her taking the Drewe’s extra daughter. Robert calls it “idiotic,” and Mary agrees, thinking it will complicate her real family down the line. In the end, Robert defers to Cora, who’s in on it, but he’s too worried about the ailing Isis to care. Downstairs, Anna reveals to Mrs. Hughes that she saw Mr. Drewe get on the train into first class, possibly with a child. Mrs. Hughes, master of discretion, tells her to put a sock in it because the child is safe and loved, which I guess is true, but Edith ruined plenty of lives on the way here.
Taking a walk of their own, Mabel leaves Tony and Charles to figure out each other’s love life, or mostly Tony’s. He insists that breaking it off with Mary would be dishonorable at this point, referring of course to their sex try-out. “You are an old dear if you think I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Blake replies, proving his knowledge of sex try-outs. Tony thinks there’s no way that Mary wants to get rid of him because who is she to be turning down suitors now? Charles says that’s just what Mary wants, and he’s totally right. Later that night, Mabel tells Tony how it is. “Look, dude,” she says. “I’m here, and I’m way into you. Mary is a big tease, so why not choose to be happy?” Well, she only said that very last part. I paraphrased the rest.
Elsewhere, Charles is telling Mary that she needs to make a clean and definite break with Tony. No kidding. Some time later, Charles phones, saying he has a plan to settle it once and for all. All Mary has to do is come to London in clothes appropriate for the movies. In the city, they go to the cinema and duck out early. Without explaining their quick exit, Charles tells her to follow every one of his commands, starting with kissing him. The smooch is timed just so that Tony and Mabel, who were also in the theater, catch them. Finally, Tony gets the picture and says he’ll go. Now that it’s settled, what’s next for Mary? Well, not Charles. He’s off to Poland for an indefinite amount of time, so there’s really no chance for them. They’re just buddies, which is still cool.
Anna and Bates are planning for the future in a way that makes it seem like something awful is about to happen. Their tenant is vacating his property, so they’re going to see where things stand. “Whenever I see a problem, you see only possibilities,” Bates says. Damn, they’re cute, but totally doomed. Cute, but doomed. It sucks that they’re still hating on Baxter for talking to the cops. She won’t share the real reason for her snitching, so they assume she’s just a rat. When they aren’t bullying Baxter, Anna and Bates continue to talk about the future and whether it will be ruined by the looming specter of Mr. Green. (Hint: probably, because no one can stop talking about him for one minute.) Anna goes as far as to ask Bates if the whole matter is over, and she implies that some baby-making might be in their future if it is. Ms. Baxter, hoping to finally smooth things over, offers to swear she saw the ticket whole when Mrs. Hughes found it, but again Anna and Bates aren’t cool to her, despite Molesley’s efforts to stand up for her.
Speaking of Molesley’s efforts to stand up for someone, he and Daisy are still working together, but she’s bummed out that Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald isn’t doing as great as everyone hoped. She kind of brushes her new tutor off when he asks about their next lesson. She feels trapped, questioning whether there’s any good in trying to elevate her status. Oh, wow, Daisy is wondering what she should do. That’s new, Daisy. Molesley gets a letter from Daisy’s father-in-law, Mr. Mason, inviting them both to the farm, and Barrow suggests Baxter go too, because he wants to be nice now that his butt isn’t infected. Mrs. Patmore had written to Mr. Mason, as it turns out. You see, it was all part of the plan, so Daisy, Molesley, and Baxter head over to the farmer. If you don’t recall, Mr. Mason is the world’s nicest man. Also, he’s the father of Daisy’s late-husband William. (She didn’t love him, not really.) Mason understands why she hasn’t been around, on account of her studies, but Daisy tells him that she’s considering quitting, which he thinks is a rubbish idea. “There’s no limit to what you can achieve if you just give a year or two to mastering those books,” he says. Daisy feels that the world is stacked against folks like them, but Mr. Mason says change is coming.
Let’s all just pause a moment to think about how great Mr. Mason is.
I feel better. How about you? Let’s move on.
At dinner with Atticus’ parents, Lord Grantham tries to break the “we’re not anti-Semites” ice with Lady Sinderby by telling her that Lady Grantham’s father was Jewish. Ah, the old “I have black friends. How could I be racist?” routine! Good to know that was around in the ’20s as well. Lady Sinderby seems nice, commenting on how much she likes Rose. Lord Sinderby, on the other hand, is quizzing Cora about the reason her mother never converted and whether her father was ashamed of her. You know, small talk. The dinner goes well enough, but when it comes to Rose and Atticus, Lord Sinderby is like, “Eh, we’ll see.”
His grumpiness isn’t enough to stifle Rose and Atticus’ cuteness, though. After a trip to Ripon to get tea with her new beau, Rose says she wants to “rush in like billy-o.” (To all curious parties, “billy-o” means “an extreme standard of comparison.” An example would be, “Lord Merton’s son Larry sucks like billy-o.”) Robert mentions that Lord Sinderby wasn’t quite thrilled with the pairing, however, and suggests that she needs to write to her parents, including her really terrible mother. That should go over well.
Tom is still off on the fringes of everyone else’s stories, being like “Hello? I’m threatening to leave and take Sybil away. Anyone care anymore?” He tells Robert that he’s considering Boston, and Lord Grantham is surprisingly all right with it. Then Tom and Sybil have a really cute moment on the bridge, before he explains that they’re going to live across the sea, “because I hope to God I’m doing the right thing.” Way to instill confidence in your daughter, Tom.
NEXT: Denker vs. Spratt vs. Predator
Mary, in between breaking it off with Tony and expressing no interest the little girl Edith showed up with, goes to lunch with Violet. She says that Merton’s sons shouldn’t be trouble at the big dinner now that Sybil is gone, but Violet still appears worried about the whole affair. Mary then suggests that the dowager countess is only worried about the changing rank between her and Isobel. The truth is much sadder. Violet says that she had gotten used to having a friend to talk with. It’s a sentiment that would leave any living human “quite dewy eyed.”
The past dickishness of Lord Merton’s son was also a topic of conversation at lunch with Isobel, Violet and her new fiancé. Let’s just hope the younger one isn’t, right? Anyway, the lunch ends with Isobel admitting that she knows that Violet doesn’t approve of the engagement, but she thanks her friend for her kindness anyway. Spratt enters just in time to stop me from crying to announce that he’s handing in his notice. “Typical Spratt,” Violet says, dismissing the show as a “demonstration of discontent.” “He’s as touchy as a beauty losing her looks.”
Before the big dinner, Robert enters carrying Isis. The doctor says she has cancer. She doesn’t have long to live, but Robert couldn’t bear to put her down. He does suggest canceling the dinner, but again there are already too many wheels in motion. I guess we will never know what horrible things might not have happened if they had canceled.
Onto dinner, which I will remind you was Mary’s idea to celebrate the newly announced engagement, so let’s blame her.
Isobel is thrilled to hear about Edith’s generous kidnapping of a child, but Robert calls it “crackers,” proving once again that the British can turn any word into a synonym for “crazy.” And uh-oh, what’s this? Larry, one of the Merton boys, thinks that an orphan is unwieldy baggage, saying he would never attach himself to a woman with a child. But I’m sure he’ll stop being a jerk now. Nope? Continuing his world tour of insult and misery, Larry then suggests that Rose and Atticus have no future because of religious differences, which is blasphemy. Rotticus (long “o”) is perfect. The point of this tirade is that Larry Grey does not think that Isobel and his father could ever make a happy couple. There’s too wide a class disparity, he claims. Dicky, being the strict authoritarian that he’s clearly been, tries to calm the situation by sending Larry away, but the dickhead lashes out, taking swipes at Tom (“a chauffeur”) and Atticus (“a Jew”) on his way down. Tom, absurdly justified, calls him a “bastard.” Downstairs, Molesley regales the staff with the story of Tom’s use of the word “bastard,” to Bates’ delight and Mrs. Hughes’ disapproval. (Won’t somebody think of the maids?!)
“I do not endorse Tom’s language,” Robert says, back upstairs, “but it is certainly how we all feel.”
There’s a brief moment where we think, “Oh, well, maybe Larry is the only bad Grey,” but then his brother turns to Isobel and says, “Well, what did you expect?” What kind of person is Lord Merton to have raised two classist, anti-Semitic butt holes? That’s my question. Apparently, he claims no fault. Dicky asks Isobel if his atrocious sons have spoiled their engagement. Uhhh, yeah, dude. They kind of did. The best explanation we get for the rudeness is that Larry takes after his mother, so she sounds like a peach. The episode ends with the future of Lord Merton and Violet’s relationship unclear. Combine that with Robert bringing Isis to his bed to die on Cora’s insistence, and you’d think that we ended on a down note. But you’d be underestimating the wonderfulness of Rotticus.
After dinner, Atticus secrets Rose away to a secluded corner. “It occurs to me that we’re already having to defend ourselves, so let’s have a real reason to.” What follows is one of the most charming proposals ever. Rose cutely commands that he get down on one knee, and she accepts. These two have quickly become one of the most charming elements of the show. This whole season has been a great spotlight for Lily James, who’s probably going to be a star after Cinderella, but the proposal was a high note. It’s a nice reminder that the show isn’t an endless series of racists ruining dinner and then family pets dying of cancer.
Long live, Rotticus!