Love is always in the air on Downton Abbey, but in Season 5’s “Episode 3,” it permeated every corner of the house. Even the non-relationship relationship between Carson and Ms. Hughes had the smallest spark, when Ms. Patmore told her everyone knows she has Carson wrapped around her little finger. For many, emotions were — as the Dowager counsels — restrained, although for Mary, things were shockingly out in the open. Hit the jump for why sympathy is fine, but it butters no parsnips.
From the most overt to the most oppressed: let’s begin with Mary and her fling with Gillingham. Far from setting the pair on the road to marriage, as Gillingham and now Violet expect, Mary left Liverpool completely in doubt about her relationship with Lord Tony. He’s a nice enough chap, sure, and easy on the eyes, but is he enough for Mary Crawley? He has rather big shoes to fill, and she’s not desperate.
Though Mary’s actions may shock her grandmother and deeply wound Gillingham, the truth is it’s just too soon for Mary to settle down again. Her character is at her best when she is flirting and scheming, and since no one else on the show under 65 dates, her romantic travails are all we have at the moment.
Though Mary is the only one dating, that in no way means she’s the only one caught in love’s ebbs and flows. Cora gets a rare moment in the sun in London with Mr. Bricker, who gushes over her nearly to the point of slavering. She’s flattered that he is calls her “sharp” and believes in her instincts about art — a marked difference from Robert. But while the Earl did travel “the length of England” just to spend an evening with her, he ruined everything by being cruel about Cora’s smarts. Look, we all know Cora isn’t the brightest crayon, but she can get things done here and there. Her reminiscing about being useful during the war also plays on Downton‘s larger theme this year, which is about finding one’s own way (more on that in a moment).
While others dealt with romantic matters of the heart, Edith was wounded by heartbreak of another nature. As Robert predicted, Mrs. Drew had her fill of Edith hanging around pretty quickly, even suspecting her of kidnap. Why her husband doesn’t just tell her the truth, I cannot know (or even why Edith wouldn’t, at this point), although he does call her out for being “soft in the head.” So many things about this story make zero sense, and unless there’s going to be some satisfying payoff for it in the future, it’s becoming (like most of the Edith-centric storylines) laughably ridiculous.
As for the other major love problems, the drama with Baxter was far too drawn out, and it’s conclusion not even remotely satisfying (although Molesley’s advice was sound, and a nice scene for him). She was in love with a handsome and cruel man, she allowed herself to be influenced by him, and then she paid the price for her mistake. She never implicated him, and has suffered (and wants to continue to suffer) silently ever since. Fine, but it was a tame revelation for Downton. I mean, this in an episode where Mary made Anna hide her birth control device!
There were a lot of little things brewing, too, like the side-story bringing Archie back up. Was there a point to that, or was it just filling time? From it came the nice little scene, though, where Carson tells Patmore his decision directly, and doesn’t dance around it (without being unkind). Daisy is considering expanding her schooling, which Patmore and Carson no longer actively encourage, though Ms. Hughes does. And what is Thomas cooking up on the phone? A post-Downton position?
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— My reaction to Miss Bunting is almost identical to Robert’s. Every time she opens her troll mouth I want to toss her out of a window. I also don’t understand how Branson can mistake having an opinion with not having any manners, to the point of a disorder. I mean, take a hint, Branson — no one likes this woman. Not even the surprisingly forgiving Mary. Ditch her.
— Mary and Branson bonding was a lovely thing. They have zero chemistry romantically, and for that I am glad, but their friendship is great.
— Spratt, that gossipy old woman! I loved when Violet set him straight, and pretended to be shocked he would think such a vulgar thought about her granddaughter.
— “Can we be confident there will be no unwanted epilogue…?” – Violet, who knows of such things.
— Truly, what the hell is up with Rose and Russian refugees? And do not get me started on the Bates business. Where can this possibly go? If they arrest him again, please just hang him immediately to put us out of our misery.
— Violet’s flirtatious past with the Russian Prince was extraordinarily far-fetched, as was Robert’s immediate embrace of him when he was so clearly talking about his illicit feelings for Violet back in the day. Still, that interlude finally gave Isobel some ammunition against Violet, and can now also make fun of her “admirer.”
— Isobel is extremely smart and well-read, isn’t she? She also has a clear opinion about things without making people book their tickets out of the county (Bunting …)
— Baxter: “Your dad was very kind to me.” Thomas: “Really? Because he was never very kind to me.”
— Isobel: “Servants are human beings, too.” Violet: “Yes, but preferably only on their days off.”
— “Granny has a past! Good thing Papa and Aunt Rosamund were already born, or we could invent all kinds of tales” – Mary.
— Did anyone else find Gillingham singling Isobel out rather odd? Or is he just trying to get into her good graces as Mary’s future husband? (So he thinks!)
— “You’re allowed to be cross, but you’re not allowed to be unjust.” – Cora. Preach!