Downton Abbey‘s “Season 5, Episode 5” was a mixed bag. It was another week of nothing much happening (minus a little scuffle — more on that later), but it also had some of the best verbal quips and jabs we’ve been treated to in awhile. What makes Downton so wonderful (aside from its costume design and soundtrack) are the interactions between and among its characters. But, those moments can also show just how weak certain storylines are.
The cast of Downton is amazingly strong, and seeing them really get a chance to have fun with the material is a joy. It makes it all the more frustrating, then, when the material isn’t up to the standard they deserve. With that in mind, (and breaking up my format a little this week) here are the Top 5 best and worst moments from “Episode 5”:
1. Lady Mary having dinner with Charles Blake and Mabel Lane Fox
The looks! The verbal jabs! The entree! Everything about this interaction was scrumptious. Mary had a gorgeous dress and wonderful reactions to sitting down with the spurned Miss Fox, who was indignant throughout, before leaving with a pointed, “Eat [the rest of my dinner], I hope it chokes you” to Charles Blake. Blake, not missing a beat, immediately slid over in to her place and turned his attention to the pork. Fantastic.
2. Isobel and Violet solve a jigsaw
I would watch a series that was just these two chatting over tea (or was that sherry?) Violet murmuring about domestic matters with Spratt and his “creature,” the maid, who would soon be leaving her to care for her inform mother was delightful. The best moment came, though, when she compared herself as being infirm, and Isobel shot back, “you’re as infirm as Windsor castle.” Let us hope, anyway.
3. Rosamund and Violet spar over secrets
This was a short conversation, but the mother and daughter duo had an excellent verbal sparring match over Rosamund divulging the latest information about Edith’s child. “You and I both know you’re not leaving my house until you tell me everything, so shall I have a bed prepared?”
The Dowager Countess is making a lot of appearances in this Best Of list, and is it any wonder? Frankly, she hasn’t had a lot to do besides spit one-liners for the last several seasons. Her doing something besides tutting and tossing out witticisms is a better use of Maggie Smith‘s talents. I loved how Clarkson called Violet out on being jealous of Isobel’s potential new position in society, which she essentially answered as Arrested Development‘s Lucille Bluth: “I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.” Still, Clarkson was ultimately won over by Lord Merton’s knowledge of iodine, and that was that.
5. Hughes and Patmore Soothe Carson’s Masculine Pride
This was actually a collection of scenes and conversations, starting with Mrs. Patmore coming to Carson for advice (surprising, as it comes on the heels of his turning his nose up at her plea about Archie) regarding her investments. Her bonding with Mrs. Hughes over the fact that men don’t always know everything was a great coda to the hilarious scene where Mrs. Patmore, it turns out, knows more about stocks than Carson (asking if the company he recommended had gone public). And finally, a great culmination to that arc when Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore found a way to make Carson feel useful, while also protecting her investment. Bravo.
Neutral: Rose and Atticus Aldridge
Rose really has not added much to Downton Abbey in her time there, and all of the business with her Russian refuges has really been a narrative non-starter. But, now that romance is in the air, that may change. Rose didn’t do much to contribute to the cuteness that was her interaction with Atticus, but her putting her foot in her mouth about Odessa did lead the way for Atticus to be the most adorable chap ever, practically giggling at the fact that she didn’t care that he was Jewish (what a world …). Again, plot-wise, there’s not much here, and the whole “Rose loves anyone who’s not a WASP” thing has been done before, but their final interaction was pretty darn cute.
1. Various members of the household attempt to convince Branson to go after Miss Bunting
Here’s the thing about Miss Bunting. Had she been compelling, sympathetic, or likable in even the slightest way, everyone wondering why Branson didn’t go running after he would have made sense. She was none of these things, though. It’s too bad, too, because a nice socialist teacher chick would have been a great way to shake things up and give Branson a real romantic interest. Instead, she was really just the embodiment of an internet troll. Daisy and Isobel stumping for her was a waste of time, but thankfully, though Branson did go and tell her goodbye, he ultimately didn’t buy into her hateful attitude. Good riddance.
2. The Drews
Every week, Mrs. Drew is annoyed by and curt with Edith, yells at her husband for it, and he tells Edith to stay away. Enough of this, please. Truly, why hasn’t Mrs. Drew been clued in yet? Why wasn’t she in the first place?
3. Villainous Thomas returns
First, Thomas gets addicted to heroin after one weekend in London. Now, maybe because he feels sick, he’s roaming the halls being nasty to people for no reason. Him annoying Anna was particularly out of character, given that she’s the only person he’s ever been truthful to about his insecurities. And to threaten Mrs. Hughes? None of it made any sense. Totally beneath his character at this point.
Violet is far too shrewd to think that attempting to remove Edith’s child from her again will fly. Edith is clearly desperate, and while Rosamund talks about Mrs. Drew reaching the point of explosion, well, what about poor Edith? She’s ready to snatch the child and flee, and truly, who can blame her at this point.
5. Robert is mad at Cora … again
I don’t like it when mom and dad fight. Cora handled things with Mr. Bricker perfectly in the end (even though she was probably wrong to continue to invite his flirtations, but then again, she’s lonely and ignored by her husband, and these are the things affairs are made of …). Robert, once again, has come down on the wrong side of the argument. Instead of showering Cora with love and affection, he’s giving her the cold shoulder, only making things worse.
And a final question to end things with: did Bates kill Mr. Green?
Episode Rating: ★★★
Musings and Miscellanea:
— For some reason in this episode more than others, I really noticed how insistent the soundtrack was with infusing drama into otherwise really ordinary scenes. (My favorite is when they silently parade the children in to a sweeping crescendo like, “they’re still here!”)
— I loved that Mr. Drew suggested that Edith is annoying them so much now his wife wants them to literally just pack up and move away!
— “We’re the future, they’re the past” – Daisy, getting revolutionary (but not leaving the kitchen yet).
— Looks like Scotland Yard is finally putting this murder case together, for real.
— “What is your game here? That we hold hands and get a cottage by the sea together?” – Mabel Lane Fox. I would watch that show!
— Baxter, Molesley, something something, yawn.
— “I wished men worried about our feelings a quarter as much as we worry about theirs.” – Hughes. Amen, sister.