Previously on Downton Abbey: Edith and Drewe came up with a stupid non-plan to keep her in her daughter’s life, Mary met up with Gil for a sex weekend, and a witness stepped forward to possibly implicate Bates in Greene’s murder.
Mary reclines in bed with Gil (both of them are wearing some sort of nightwear, I think it bears saying) until her breakfast is delivered and Gil has to go hide next door for a bit. He jokes that she’s worked up an appetite and she tells him she hates vulgar jokes. He makes a note of that, along with all sorts of other things so he can get used to the rituals that’ll make up their daily life.
Mary: Are you governed by ritual and routine? I don’t think I am.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! Is she the most non self-aware person this week? Because that was absurd. She’s totally governed by ritual and routine. It’s her entire life.
They’re both heading home that day, and Mary comments that it’s a miracle nobody’s spotted them, considering they’re not even making the barest effort to keep this thing under wraps. You could be helped by the fact that you’re in Liverpool and I doubt too many of your friends hang around there, Mary, but yes, you’re right, it is insane to think that nobody’s going to find out about this. Gil doesn’t think it’s a big deal if they get found out, since he’s practically picking out the flowers and the cake flavours already, but Mary’s suddenly putting the brakes on. Ohhh, the sex wasn’t good, was it? I’m guessing that’s what’s happening here, because she kind of turned very quickly.
Back at Downton, Mrs Patmore comes into the kitchen with a letter, looking distinctly down. Daisy’s too busy chattering about her lessons and how awesome she is at maths now and how she shouldn’t have left school so young to notice at first.
Cora’s having a rare breakfast in the dining room and mentions that Bricker offered to show them the Della Francescas in the National Gallery when they’re next in London. Tom mentions that a man in Leeds has made an intriguing proposition, but Robert cuts him off and says they’ll talk about that when Mary returns. Edith, of course, plans to spend her day at the Drewes’, and Rose is in York with her Russians. Cora’s pleased that Rose is doing something useful with all of her free time. Edith and Tom take off and Cora comments that Edith is getting so fond of the Drewe girl.
Robert: I only hope she isn’t driving the mother mad
Cora’s Face: Why do you have to hate our middle daughter so much?
Thomas asks Carson if he can use the phone in his office, in private, and Carson clears out so he can do so. Thomas phones someone who sounds like they run a self-help group called ‘Choose Your Own Path.’
Mary and Gil leave the hotel together, because they are, collectively, stupid. Mary dismissively says they’ll talk soon.
Gil: What’s there to talk about? I’ve already got the band booked! Saturday’s good for you, right?
She gets into a waiting car, spotted, from across the street, by Sprat the Snob.
Isobel’s visiting with Violet and reports that she hasn’t heard anything from Merton since their tea, and no, she doesn’t care. Violet exposits that Sprat’s in Liverpool to walk his niece down the aisle at her wedding. Just in case any of us were wondering.
The local constable is meeting with Carson again and tells him that this witness is a woman who saw absolutely nothing, but apparently heard Greene say ‘Why have you come here?’ Oh, come on. By her own admission, she was in a crowd, and her view was blocked. How would she hear that so clearly, and know exactly who said it? Was Greene screaming? How was she the only person in that crowd to hear him? I find it hard to believe the police would even take this seriously, since any halfway decent lawyer would get this thrown out of court in any trial. It doesn’t help that this woman sat on this for months for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Anyway, the constable says that Greene complained about having quarreled with one of the servants while at Downton and so they’re looking into it. Carson’s confused, since Greene seemed in very high spirits during his time there.
Mary’s back in time for tea, so Tom brings up this proposal from Mr Leeds: the man wants to put up 50 houses on a piece of land owned by the Crawleys.
Robert: I won’t have my view spoiled by a bunch of modern houses! If it’s not 300 years old it’s worthless!
Mary rolls her eyes and Tom diplomatically says they don’t have to decide just now. The kids are brought in, and Edith looks sad as everyone starts to play with them. Yes, we get it, Edith is sad she can’t have her kid with her. Jesus, Downton, give your viewers some credit for having functional brains.
Carson asks Hughes about this supposed quarrel between Greene and a Downtonian, but she claims to know nothing. After Carson leaves, Patmore catches Hughes and tells her she’s received a letter from her sister, the mother of the nephew who was shot for cowardice during the war. Apparently, the town where he lived is putting up a war memorial, but the committee won’t include nephew Archie’s name because they’re a bunch of judgmental pricks who have deemed him unworthy. Which makes things awkward for the parents, because their neighbours only know that Archie died, not how, so they’ll all be expecting his name to be on there. Patmore’s solution is to put him on the Downton memorial, which, she says, will make sense because of the family connection. Uh, Patmore, no it won’t. Anybody who buys that explanation is an idiot. ‘Yes, we decided it made much more sense to have our son listed on the memorial in the town near where his aunt works than in the spot he grew up in. He just really, really liked that aunt, you know?’ Come on. She’s clearly desperate, and she asks Hughes to talk to Carson for her.
Hughes’s face: Great, like I don’t have enough on my mind already?
Violet asks Sprat how the wedding was, and he’s so strange and evasive she tells him to just spit out whatever’s on his mind. He tells her he saw Mary in Liverpool with Gillingham. Violet, proving that 1) age has not diminished her brain one little bit and 2) she’s probably the smartest, quickest Crawley out there, immediately manages to spin a plausible lie about Mary and Gil being in Liverpool for a landowners’ conference. I’m imagining that as being a group of men smoking cigars and sipping brandies in a wood-panelled room and complaining about these committees that want to turn the cricket pitches into memorial gardens. Sprat is suitably chastened and slinks away while Violet gets to look disturbed for a bit.
Hughes tells Anna about the Greene witness, which predictably freaks Anna out. Hughes tries to calm her down, but Anna’s sure the whole story of her rape is going to come spilling out now.
Rose is going to bring her Russians to Downton for a visit, and Cora’s going down to London. She asks everyone if they want to come along, but they’re all too busy. There’s talk of Rose’s Russians being taken to visit the Bronte home, which makes me wonder just what the deal is with these people—are they refugees or kids on an everlasting school trip? Isobel thinks they’ll be big fans of the Brontes, because if the Russians know anything, it’s awful, abusive relationships poorly disguised as love stories. Robert mentions that they have some Russian memorabilia around the house from his parents’ visit in the 1870s and offers to dig it up.
The servants are having dinner and Thomas mentions that his father’s ill and he needs to go see him (which is probably a lie, he’s going to London for his self-help clinic or whatever). Baxter murmurs that she’s sorry to hear his father’s ill. Since he has no concept of empathy, he thinks she’s being sarcastic, but she’s not, and she reminds him that she’s known his family for many, many years and actually does care what happens to his dad. She adds that his dad was kind to her and Thomas sniffs that his dad was never very kind to him. Oh, of course, an abusive parent to justify his endlessly horrible behavior.
Bates notes that Anna’s quiet.
Anna: Me? Quiet? No, not at all! Just haven’t done anything interesting lately! Hey, wouldn’t it be cool for us to just take off and start over where nobody knows us?
Baxter helps Cora undress for the night and asks if she’s come to a decision about Baxter’s future. Cora says she wants Baxter to give her all the details of her story, and once she does that, she’ll make a final decision. Robert comes in and asks Cora if she’s ready for her trip. She is, and is rather giddily looking forward to it.
Robert: Blech, travel. Such a hassle. First class is so cramped these days!
Cora reminisces about the war years, and how she and the girls actually had lots and lots to do and felt like useful, contributing members of the greater society for a while.
Robert (for real, this is his line): I don’t remember Mary doing much.
I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but thank you, Robert, for reassuring me I wasn’t the only one who remembered what a useless waste of air she was during those years!
Cora brings up the houses that Leeds guy wants to build.
Robert: Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that.
Anna asks Mary how she enjoyed her weekend.
Mary: Eh, it was fine. Whatever. Oh, here, stash my birth control, will you? I can’t have it here, because what if someone finds it and draws the wrong conclusion? Much better for you to put it somewhere for your husband to find and draw the wrong conclusion, right?
Anna: Sure, no problem. I used to be interesting and sprightly, but somehow over the past five seasons I’ve gotten progressively less imbued with personality and now I’m either depressing, uptight, or a fairly mindless automaton doing whatever you say. But at least let me lay some judgment on you before I go: I hate that you’re making me aid and abet sin, because we all know sex is a filthy, dirty act and you should only do it with someone you love after a priest gives you permission.
Mary: Since you’ve made me uncomfortable, I’m going to retaliate: what’s this I hear about a new witness to the Greene squashing?
Anna explains and Mary reassures her there can’t be any evidence against Bates, because if there were, they’d have found it by now.
Bates spots Anna stashing the BC in her purse belowstairs and asks her what it is. She only explains that it’s something for Mary and it’s private and he needs to stop pressing.
Hughes has gone to Carson to ask that Archie be included on the war memorial, but he’s no more welcoming than Archie’s hometown committee was. He says there’s no way that’s going to happen, because it’s unfair to sully the names of the men who died bravely by putting them next to someone who couldn’t handle his PTSD.
The next morning, Baxter tells Molesley she has to tell Cora everything. He asks if she will and she admits she’s not sure. She just wants the story to stay good and buried. He advises her to tell Cora that.
Hughes breaks the news to Patmore, just as Carson comes into the kitchen. He reassures her that he’s not unsympathetic, but the committee never would have allowed it. She sniffs about parsnips and swishes off. Molesley comes and tells Carson the constable is back.
Robert’s meeting, which was the reason he couldn’t go to London with Cora, has been cancelled, so he’s going to surprise her with his august presence. Mary wonders if this is a good idea but he doesn’t see why it would be a problem and dispatches Bates to pack a bag.
Constable tells Carson that Greene’s disagreement was with Bates, which Carson doubts, but he agrees to fetch Bates so the constable can talk to him.
Mary has been summoned to Violet’s, and as Sprat ushers her into the drawing room, he asks if she enjoyed her stay in Liverpool. Proving she’s not at all a chip off the Violet block, Mary’s face goes full on oh, shit, but luckily Violet comes bustling in to cover for her. Mary clearly knows she’s in for a verbal ass-whuppin, and coming from Violet, those things sting.
Violet makes it clear that this is not cool, even in 1924 and moves along to asking if they can hope for a marriage here. Once she hears that Gil’s essentially already waiting, top hat in hand, at the altar, she’s somewhat relieved and asks Mary when she plans to announce the engagement. Mary has no immediate plans to do so, of course. Violet tells her to get on with it already, because this is not the sort of thing well-bred young girls do.
In London, Cora reassures Baxter she can take her time telling her story, but Baxter has decided to just go ahead and shame the devil already. She explains that she kind of fell in with a, well, a Thomas, essentially, in the last household she worked in. The guy was a nasty piece of work, and mere proximity to him made her a nasty piece of work as well. He convinced her to steal the jewelry and give it to him and he’d meet her somewhere, but of course he took off with the stuff and left her to take all the blame. And for some reason, she never told anyone about his part in the theft, thus leaving him to happily go and keep on stealing. Great plan, Baxter!
The constable asks Bates what he did during his day in York, while Greene was being bus-ted. Bates has clearly thought this one through at length, because he provides all kinds of details, like where he stopped to get some shoes and where he got a cup of coffee. The constable’s satisfied and reassures Anna, who’s hanging around outside, that everything seems to be in order. Anna desperately says she can’t imagine why Greene would invent this quarrel. Bates says it seems like he was being pre-emptive, almost like he expected Bates to kick up a fuss about something!
Bricker and Cora check out Della Francesca’s The Nativity as Bricker notes that every figure shows a different type of reverence—eager, contemplative, amazed. She notices a magpie on a roof and he explains that D-F picked a bird noted for its chatter and made it silent in wonder. He goes on to say that he thinks the picture at Downton is a study for one of the figures in the painting. Cora’s envious of him for being able to create something people still talk about centuries later. She doubts anything she’s done will be remembered long enough for her to be carried out of the house. Bricker, of course, begs to differ and takes her to look at another painting. She semi-apologises for taking up so much of his time but he reassures her he’s enjoying himself.
Mrs Drewe returns home with one of her kids, having had to take him to the dentist, leaving Edith babysitting Marigold. But when she walks into the house, Mrs D finds Edith and Marigold absent and she completely freaks out and rushes around the farm until she finds Edith with Marigold and Drewe by the chicken coop. She grabs the kid back and tries to ease her panic as Edith thankfully reads the mood and agrees to head home. Before she leaves, she asks to come by the following day. It’s all Mrs Drewe can do not to yell, ‘Jesus, can you not give us one frigging day’s peace?’ Once she’s gone, Mrs Drewe tells her husband that this has got to stop, because it’s just getting weird and creepy. He tries to reassure her, but then she starts to wonder if her husband’s got a thing for her ladyship.
Cora’s trying to phone Rosamond from the museum, but she can’t get through, so Bricker offers to send a telegram. A telegram? Aren’t you all in the same city? Can’t you just swing by Rosamond’s place and tell her whatever it is you need to say? Mayfair’s not that far from the National Gallery. I know; I’ve walked between the two places. Easily.
Bricker wants to take Cora out to dinner. She demurs, saying she’s not properly dressed for it, but he basically begs, laying it on pretty thick by saying she’ll be the best-looking woman at the Ritz no matter what she’s wearing (or what she’s not wearing, am I right, Bricker?) He’s so, so eager to hear what she thinks of all the paintings, because he thinks she has a wonderful clarity about them and an instinct for their key elements. Cora’s sold, and who can blame her? After years of her family dismissing, ignoring, or outright abusing her, a handsome and charming man is flattering her, acting genuinely interested in what she has to say, and making her feel worthwhile. And I think it bears saying that he does seem genuinely excited by and interested in what she has to say. I don’t think this is entirely a physical attraction (though he clearly does find her attractive).
Mary goes and discusses this whole Bates situation with Hughes. Hughes is worried that the York alibi might not hold up, because all the places Bates claims to have visited are really close to the station, so he could have just set up the alibi, run down to London, and come back. Hughes is concerned that someone else investigating this manner could still find all this suspicious.
Bricker strolls home with Cora, who reminisces about when she first came to London as a teenager with lots of money and a pretty face. Bricker happily listens to her tales of being a Dollar Princess and guesses she was the belle of every ball. She apologises for talking about herself so much, but he tells her not to be sorry at all, because he wants to hear this. She can’t believe she actually just went out for a night on the town, because it’s been ages since she did so. He gets a bit serious and asks if they can do this again. Cora quietly tells him that’s unlikely to happen, but she takes the offer as a compliment.
She goes into the house, glowing, only to find Robert and his Attitude holding court in the sitting room. She greets him happily, while he prissily informs her that he came to London as a surprise so they could go out to dinner, but then she had to go and ruin it with her plans and having a life and not magically anticipating his arrival. Cora apologises sincerely, but he can’t even graciously accept (and to be honest, she doesn’t even really have anything to be sorry about. He showed up out of the blue, and she had already made other plans. Which she sent a telegram back to the house detailing, so if he was really that determined to have dinner with her, he could have gone to the Ritz and joined her, but then he couldn’t get on his high horse and act all pissy here. What a dick.)
Cora: I sense you have a terrible attitude. What’s your problem?
Robert: I decided to grace you with my amazing presence, despite knowing that you had plans while you were in London, and when I got here I found you’d had the nerve to actually exist apart from me, which is wholly unacceptable.
Oh, and just in case we didn’t hate him enough already, Robert goes ahead and dials it up to Douchebag Level 11.
Cora: Bricker just wanted to go out and discuss the pictures we looked at today.
Robert: Bricker wanted to discuss the pictures with you? Seriously? You really think an actual art historian is in any way interested in what you have to say? You? I can’t remember the last time you said anything worth listening to, mostly because I just stopped listening at least a decade ago. Clearly this man only wants to sleep with you.
At which point Cora, quite rightly, gets seriously offended, but instead of giving Robert a piece of her mind, she withdraws a bit into herself and turns to go to bed.
Robert: Wait, are you actually mad now? Are these emotions or something?
Cora: You’ve said what you feel and you’re within your rights to do so. And I’m within my rights to completely reevaluate our relationship, which I’m starting to realize is incredibly dysfunctional and sad.
Mary and Tom have a chat about things. He asks if Edith seems distracted.
Mary: Who the hell is Edith?
Mary: You seem distracted
Tom: I’m just trying to figure out a way to do what’s right for me without hurting others
Mary: Can we make this all about me now?
Tom: Yeah, ok. You and Gil, right? How was your sex weekend, by the way?
Mary: You knew about that?
Tom: Being possessed of more than a quarter of a functional brain, unlike my father-in-law, yes, I did figure out what your ‘sketching trip’ really was. As did several other people, I’m guessing.
Mary: Oh well. Problem is, Liverpool opened my eyes to the fact that we may not have a lot in common, something I didn’t realize during any of the other many, many hours we spent together, so clearly what I’m complaining about is some sort of sexual incompatibility. He’s a nice enough guy, but can I really spend the rest of my life with someone who prefers missionary?
Tom: Hey, you know, I have stuff going on too. Will you back me up with that?
Mary: With your relationship with Sarah or this supposed move to America you keep talking about?
Tom: Both? Maybe?
Mary: We’ll see. I hate Sarah and don’t like the idea of you leaving.
Now we get a scene of Isobel and Violet that serves purely to remind us that Rose is having her Russians to tea that day and Violet went to Russia once.
Cora and Robert return home just as Rose is overseeing the setup for the tea. Rose is relieved to see them and confirms with Robert that the Russian souvenirs his parents brought back are on display. Patmore breezes in to plonk down a cake with some attitude. Robert asks Carson what her problem is and Carson says it’s beneath Robert’s notice. Rose freaks out that there’s not enough lemon. Crisis! Edith offers to go down to the kitchen to fetch some more, but Rose won’t delegate and goes herself. And then Gil shows up out of the blue. Was he just hanging around the neighbourhood or something? Because apparently he didn’t even know this tea was happening. And in come Violet and Isobel. Isobel greets Gil nicely and he thanks her for always having been so nice to him. Is he dying or something? What a weird thing to say.
Sarah shows up for Daisy’s lesson, only to be told that this particular afternoon Daisy’s too busy. Rose explains that they’ve got the Russian refugees coming.
Sarah (with arched eyebrow): Your displaced czarist aristos?
And for some reason, presumably because she’s lost her mind, Rose promptly invites Sarah to stay for the tea. And because she’s an asshole who can’t resist an opportunity to misbehave in someone else’s home and make everyone, particularly other guests, uncomfortable, Sarah accepts.
Violet takes Mary aside and suggests she use this opportunity to announce her engagement. Mary tells her she won’t be rushed into any decision and Violet asks why on earth she slept with this guy if she didn’t intend to marry him. Mary doesn’t seem too sure. Violet tells her to get her feelings under control. She’s an upper-class Brit, for heaven’s sake!
Baxter’s helping Cora get ready for the tea. Cora tells her she can stay and Baxter, clearly very relieved, thanks her.
Cora heads downstairs and is intercepted by Robert, who’s now clearly trying to undo some of the damage he’s done, but is doing a pretty piss-poor job of it.
Robert: Did you see all the awesome Russian stuff I had laid out?
Cora: Why tell me? You’ve made it clear my opinions on anything other than which soup we should have for dinner are worthless.
Robert (eyerolling): Look, I put a lot of effort into getting my ass on a train yesterday so we could have a fancy dinner, and when you had the temerity to make other plans, didn’t I have the right to be mad?
Cora: Totally! And I have the right to be mad at you for calling me worthless!
The Russians arrive, just as Anna goes to fetch Edith to tell her Drewe’s at the back door, needing to speak with her. Edith rushes to see him, only to be told she needs to stay away from his house for a little while. She goes inside and runs upstairs, crying. Can she please now go to London and be amazing or something? This whole storyline is awful and kind of insulting to her character. How did she think this was going to play out? She’s at that house almost every day, if not actually every day. Mrs Drewe is a busy woman—she’s got four kids to raise and a farm to run, and yet she has to keep dropping everything to entertain this rich woman who shows an almost creepy obsession with her toddler. And having someone from the local ‘big house’ visit was no small thing—you had to pull out the good china and find some cake or posh biscuits or something to put out. And you couldn’t just go about your business while they were there, you had to sit down and entertain. Honestly, what these two need to do is come clean with Mrs Drewe. Explain the whole story of how Marigold came to be and hope for the best. Yes, she might tell other people, but at this point, it’s either risk that or never see your kid again, Edith. Take your pick.
One of the Russians tries to speak politely to Sarah and is rewarded with absolute rudeness. Within seconds, the man’s spitting nails over the fact that Sarah’s insulting the memory of the czar. She tries to clarify that she was just saying that he was misguided in his policies. While that was true, it’s not the sort of thing anyone with any sense would say to people who likely knew him personally and whom you know held the czar very near and dear. She’s just trying to piss people off again, which is horrible. Who raised this little harpy? She lacks even the most basic manners. If you don’t approve of these people, then why did you come to the tea? What’re you hoping to prove? Did you think you’d convert these people to the cause of Communism? Convince them that the Bolsheviks were totally right all along? Good luck with that. These people have been through hell—they lost everything, including their right to live in the country of their birth. They very likely had relatives and friends who were killed. They’re nomads, living on the kindness of strangers and desperately clinging to each other in an effort to find some normalcy in the wreckage of their lives, and here you are, Sarah, deliberately antagonizing them. Nicely done.
The guy she’s upset is apparently the man in charge, and he goes right to Rose and tells her (still politely) that unfortunately, they’re going to have to cut this visit short. At that point, Cora steps up and does her job beautifully, inviting him to first check out the mementoes from the wedding of Czar Alexander II’s daughter, which was the reason Violet and her husband were in Russia all those years ago. The mere mention of Romanov relics and the Grand Duchess Maria are enough to practically bring the man to tears and Rose steers him and the others towards the library. Robert tells Tom to keep Sarah under control, like that’s somehow within his purview. Tom starts to speak up for her. Tom, shut up.
The Russians weep over the souvenirs, which confuses Robert, who thought they’d be happy to see them. Violet tells him that tears are basically Russian laughter and happily reminisces about the great time they had in St Petersburg. She goes to check out the display and notices a fan that was given to her by a fellow guest at a ball. That guest, a prince, no less, just so happens to be there and steps forward. Violet breathlessly introduces him to her family and Mary smirks that Violet has a past. Oh, please, Mary. Don’t think you can use this as some kind of ammunition. The guy just gave her a fan.
Downstairs, Anna asks Hughes how things are going, purely so Hughes can respond with a little xenophobic nonsense. Whatever.
Upstairs, Violet tells Mary to stop eyeing her, because she met the prince while she was travelling with her husband, so there was no funny business there. Mary smirks that she now knows Violet understands her predicament far better than she let on. Mary, you know nothing. So, Violet maybe had a little flirtation with some guy while she was on vacation, it doesn’t mean that she ended up rethinking her whole marriage. Violet climbs into the car with Isobel, who asks if she’s made plans to see her admirer again. Violet just tells the driver to get moving.