Downton Abbey: Sex on the Brain

uktv-downton-abbey-s05e02-12Previously on Downton Abbey: Carson, not Robert, was asked to head a committee to establish a war memorial, which made Robert pouty. Having Sarah Bunting attack the whole project on principle at dinner didn’t help. Violet, realizing that a marriage between Lord Merton and Isobel would put Isobel on an equal social footing with her, set out to wreck the relationship, while Mary, having nearly decided to marry Gil, accepts his offer of a ‘try before you buy’ sex weekend. Edith’s attempts to be part of her daughter’s life without being super obvious about it are failing pretty miserably, and in her frustration, she accidentally sets the house on fire. Belowstairs, Jimmy gets fired for sleeping with a guest/former employer and Daisy’s trying to learn maths.

Anna and Hughes start clearing things out of Edith’s room, and Anna finds the picture of the baby Edith had hidden under the pillow.

The war memorial committee heads to the cricket pitch, where they’re hoping to site a memorial garden.

Robert (seriously, this is his actual line): But what about the cricket?

Branson: We have about a billion acres around here, surely we can find another spot for the pitch in order to house a remembrance garden for the locals who died in a war?

Robert: But, but CRICKET! The pitch has been lovingly tended all these years! Surely it is irreplaceable, and what is England without CRICKET? What is Downton without that super-important annual CRICKET GAME that we’ve only ever heard about once? This garden’s a stupid idea. Let’s just put something in the centre of town.

Memorial Lady: Your priorities suck. Allow me to lay some guilt on you, as you deserve.

Thomas is seeing Jimmy off. Jimmy thanks him for being such a great friend and Thomas looks sad. Jimmy hopes Thomas finds some happiness in life, which is both sad and sweet. I still can’t say I’m sorry to see Jimmy go, because his character never did much for me.

Daisy tells Patmore her studies are going slowly, but there’s nothing to be done about that, right? Molesley sweeps through to grab the luncheon pudding and takes the opportunity to ask Carson if, now that Jimmy’s gone, he’s first footman.

Carson: I’m in a bad mood because my employer’s a selfish asshole, so I’m going to take it out on you by crapping all over your desire to re-ascend the servant hierarchy you fell down so tragically. Yeah, I guess you’re first footman. But since you’re the ONLY footman, you’re also the last.

Hughes: I’m going to unnecessarily join in on this crap parade and add that these distinctions are quickly becoming meaningless, so just get over it and accept that the job you spent your life working towards is out of your reach forever. Now get that pudding up before the rich folk taste hesitation and failure on it!

Once alone, Carson tells Hughes he was a bit disappointed after the committee meeting that morning.

Upstairs, Isobel comments on how quickly Georgie’s coming along and how fast they change at that age.

Mary: Huh? Oh, right, kid. Whatevs. I clearly have no maternal instincts whatsoever and only popped him out because that’s what rich ladies do. Thank God for nannies, amirite? Otherwise I might have to raise this offspring of my supposedly much-loved dead husband myself.

Isobel: Awkward! Let’s talk about how Edith almost burned down the house.

Edith: Yeah, sorry about that. I feel kinda dumb.

Mary: Awesome, an opportunity to act like a bitch towards you for no reason whatsoever! You are totally stupid! Hear me? Stupid to the end. Despite the fact that you at least attempted to do something meaningful with your life while I was preoccupied with looking at drapery samples, treating Matthew like shit, jerking around some new suitors, and forcing everyone to live under the pall of my apparent grief. But yeah, you’re totally an idiot.

Cora: Speaking of men Mary treats like crap, I heard from Charles Blake recently! He’s going to be in the neighbourhood with a friend of his who’s an art historian who wants to check out the Della Francesca we have hanging up in one of our bathrooms or something. Interestingly, Mary’s name never came up, maybe because this guy’s actually not a complete doormat and doesn’t want to play her horrible game.

Mary: What do I care? I’m going on a sketching holiday with some friend. A female friend, of course! Because I’ve suddenly developed a deep interest in drawing that I’ve never had before in my life. Not suspicious at all, right?

Robert: The meeting this morning was awful. Can you believe they want to STEAL MY PRECIOUS CRICKET PITCH?

Tom: I cannot believe I have to be the diplomatic one here.

Rose: Let’s talk about the Russian refugees in York. It’ll give Robert a chance to obnoxiously bait Tom.

Robert: Allrighty then! Tom, isn’t it a disgrace that the people who were kept buried under serfdom centuries after the rest of the world became enlightened actually had the nerve to react against that and rebel against the people in charge?

Tom: Unlike you, I’m not going to take the bait, so I will merely say that I think it really sucks for anyone to be exiled from their own country. I should know, asshole.

Mary: Lay off, dad.

Isobel: Someone’s given a wireless to the hospital to cheer up the patients!

Rose: Hey, let’s get us one of those! Maybe it’ll help us loosen up.

Robert: Who needs loosening? There will be none of this new-fangled wirelessing in my house.

Edith goes to the Drew household and makes a beeline for Marigold.

Drew: It’s so nice how you very clearly have an obsession with our foundling child. Hey, I have an idea, why don’t you start pretending she’s yours? You can borrow her for the day and take her to meet with her secret cousins and everything!

Mrs Drew: The hell now? I was under the impression that, when I agreed to take this kid in and raise it as my own despite the fact that her origins were ridiculously murky to say the least, I’d actually, you know, be raising her as my own. She’s not available for lease to the local rich people.

Drew: We have three actual, biological children whom nobody important’s taking an interest in. Go ahead and mother them, if you must.

Drew keeps pushing, in the most obvious way possible, and Edith really, really fakely says she’ll have to think about it, but how great would that be? She could be like Marigold’s fairy godmother. If this nonsense doesn’t make Mrs Drew draw some ugly conclusions about Marigold’s real parentage, she’s an idiot.

Violet has Clarkson and Isobel to lunch, mostly so she can bring up Merton again and say that Isobel’s been distracted by him lately. Isobel dismisses Merton’s flirtation, but Violet tells her they’ve been invited to tea at his place. Clarkson comments that the gardens at Merton’s are supposed to be really nice, and Violet teases Isobel a bit, until Isobel tells her to just shut up already.

Thomas bitches at Baxter for nearly getting him sacked, because he’s quite possibly up there with Robert in the ‘least self-aware member of the main cast’ stakes. Molesley passes by and tells him to leave her alone already. Thomas sneers that she’s got a secret and Molesley doesn’t know it, but then Rose shows up, having been asked for a meeting by Patmore, who asks if Rose can reach out to Sarah and find out if she’s willing to take on a little extra work.

Mary’s getting ready for bed, assisted by Anna, who muses they’ll have to choose her clothes for this trip carefully, so Mary can get in and out of them without help.

Mary: Oh, I’ll have help, because let’s not forget, the entire point of this trip is SEX. And speaking of that, I’m gonna need some birth control.

Anna: What is this birth control you speak of?

Mary: I have a copy of Married Love that Ethel kindly left behind last season. Here, the dog-eared page should tell you all you need. No, not that one, the other dog-eared page. No, not that one either…Oh, hell, I’ll just show you.

Anna: And why can’t you do this yourself?

Mary: What is this ‘do for yourself’ you speak of? I can’t risk being recognized in a shop buying something like this! But you, well, I don’t give a flying pessary whether someone recognizes you and potentially makes things super awkward with your murder-y husband. So, off you go.

Anna: This is so totally not in my job description.

Belowstairs, Daisy sings the praises of the wireless and how awesome it must be, while Molesley, of course, thinks the good old-fashioned music hall is just fine, thank you very much. Thomas utters some more hate about Baxter, prompting Daisy to ask just what his problem is and he sneers that he brought Baxter there to help and support him and she’s not holding up her end of the bargain. ‘I doubt that’s how she’d put it,’ Daisy says. Thomas brings up Baxter’s past again, and when Molesley fails to ask for details, Thomas tells him Baxter’s a thief. Bates comes in and Thomas tries to bait him as well, but Bates is about as over Thomas as I am and refuses to engage. But Molesley looks sad.

The next morning, Cora discusses practical plans about the incoming visitors with her husband, who complains how people treat their home like a teashop they can just drop into anytime. Well, you could just tell them to stay away, Robert. They go into the library, where Edith immediately presents her plan to ‘take a great interest’ in little Marigold. Robert tells her she can do what she wants with her own money, but she can’t just dump the kid when she gets bored. Edith promises she won’t.

Rose: Hey, have you seen this enormously convenient article about the wireless in this magazine I’m reading?

Robert: I told you NO!

Sarah’s down in the kitchen, working out the details ahead of becoming Daisy’s tutor. Carson’s not pleased to see her, of course. Sarah asks for half a crown a lesson, which Patmore is really sweetly picking up the tab for, and tells Daisy they’ll sit down just as soon as school lets out every day. Patmore protests that that’s the start of Daisy’s busy time, but Sarah says she can’t make it any earlier, because, you know, work. Patmore just shrugs at the idea that Daisy won’t have to actually do her job anymore. At least, not during the time period it most matters. How does this household keep running again?

Carson and Hughes, meanwhile, discuss this memorial garden idea.

Hughes: Meh, the garden is a stupid idea. The glorious scenery is our garden! We should have some memorial in the middle of town, where everyone can see it and reflect.

Carson: I expected Robert to be a dick, but you disappoint me.

Hughes: Eh, wouldn’t be the first time.

Anna goes to a chemist’s shop and, after some hold up because she’s mortified by the whole thing, she manages to show the chemist’s wife what she needs. The woman notes Anna’s wedding ring and suggests she try abstinence. Anna lies that she can’t take risks because of her health which for some reason changes things (I guess she’s saying she needs to get laid to stay healthy?). She pays and gets out of there as fast as she can, not even bothering to take instructions, which I’m sure won’t be important at all later.

Cora and Robert chat about Russian refugees and the wireless.

Robert: I won’t have some useless piece of equipment sitting around the house purely for our entertainment. We have way too many important things to do, like find our next disastrous investment or practice for the cricket match. Also, it’s been a while since I’ve inferred that, because you’re American, you are too stupid and unrefined to understand any of this. Consider that rectified.

Cora: I’ve clearly been dealing with this emotional abuse for too long and have therefore managed to simply block it out. Let’s ask Bates. Bates, is a wireless evil?

Bates nonsensically responds that he can’t imagine Violet with a wireless, like, no kidding, Violet couldn’t even handle electricity.

Speaking of Violet, she arrives at Merton’s with Isobel and the house is gorgeous, though Violet claims it’s Baltic inside. Isobel immediately asks to see these famous gardens but Violet presumes to shoot the idea down.

Baxter finds Molesley in the boot room and asks what’s bugging him. He tells her that Thomas told him about the theft. She pretty much confirms everything Thomas said, coming completely clean. Molesley probes for some reason for her to have done this but she pretty much says, nope, just went ahead and stole the stuff, like thieves do. She calmly informs him that she’s changed, and then leaves to let him think on it.

Tea at Merton’s. He tries to talk about quarantines with Isobel (sexy!) but Isobel warns him that they’ll bore Violet, who uses this as a chance to get a dig in at Isobel’s constant eagerness to share her medical knowledge. Isobel’s starting to look rather hurt. She compliments the décor and Merton says his mother did it all. Merton says it needs a woman’s presence, because he feels uncomfortable there, like a bull in a china shop.

Bates, whose limp has gotten a lot better this season, asks Anna why she isn’t going with Mary on this ‘sketching trip’, commenting that the whole thing sounds pretty Bohemian and not like Mary at all.

As they dress for dinner, Cora and Robert discuss Edith’s sudden affection for the Drew kid. Robert thinks it makes sense, because Edith is just sitting around watching her sisters’ kids grow up and is feeling broody and lonely. He just worries that when Edith has kids of her own, she’ll just drop this one. Uh, not to be unkind, but do they seriously think that’s still likely at this point? Not that Edith’s too old for children or anything (far from it), but for the time, she was pretty long in the tooth to be getting married for the first time, and it’s not like the neighbourhood is brimming over with offers.

Anna gives Mary the device and finds her inner feminist as she gets in a little bit of a snit over the chemist’s wife’s judgmental behavior.

Anna: Who cares what I wanted it for? Shouldn’t I have the right to control my own fertility? This isn’t America, after all! You know what, tomorrow I’m going back and getting a dozen of those things, just cause!

Mary: One’s good. For now.

Cora and Robert run into Blake’s friend, Mr Bricker, played by the always awesome Richard E Grant, on the staircase. Cora offers to show him the painting whenever he wants. He asks for a quick look that evening. Robert notes Bricker’s tan and Bricker explains he’s been in Alexandria.

Robert: I don’t envy you. I’m not very good at abroad.

My Husband: That’s what your wife says. Ho!

Thomas tells Rose and Tom that Sarah’s in the house, so Rose suggests they invite her to dinner. Tom doesn’t think that’s such a good idea, after what happened last time, but Rose says it seems unfriendly not to and goes to ask Cora.

Blake, meanwhile, asks how Mary’s doing, since he hasn’t seen much of her. He guesses this means she’s chosen Gil, and she notices that this doesn’t seem to have broken his heart.

Blake: You sound disappointed. (She clearly is).

Mary: Sorry for having jerked you around, but grief, you know. Excuses all sorts of sins and shitty behavior, even though this is exactly how I’ve treated men my entire life.

Blake: Well, good luck. Seriously, that’s why I came here. To wish you luck. Laterz.

Cora tells Tom he can totally have his buddy to dinner, because this is his home too! He skedaddles and Robert, when he hears of it, freaks out and calls her a Tinpot Rosa Luxembourg. Rose (and, let’s face it, most of the viewers) asks who that is. Cora says she was a German Communist who was shot, which is not a fate she wishes on Sarah. Robert clearly doesn’t think the same.

Belowstairs, Sarah wonders whose idea it was to ask her to dinner and learns it was Rose’s. She thanks Tom for the invite but thinks it’s probably best she not stay. He sees her out, where there’s a car waiting. She says she doesn’t need it and accuses him of having lived in the big house for too long, which is really presumptuous.

Sarah: You could do anything you want if you put your mind to it.

Tom: It’s good to hear you talk as if I had a real future. (Um, doesn’t he? Why not?)

Sarah: You do have a future, but not here, not with these people. You’re unique in this family, free from prejudice and narrow thinking.

Those are seriously the lines they speak. Who the hell is this chick to pass all these judgments? She doesn’t even know the Crawleys. Or Tom, really. Also, this dialogue hurts. It’s like it came right out of the Big Book of Clichés. Tom says he’s not sure he can be that revolutionary firebrand again, but Sarah’s sure he can. Oh, I hope not, because he was an asshole when he was like that.

Back inside, he tells Robert that Sarah couldn’t stay. ‘What a relief,’ Robert growls.

Dinner. Rose talks to Blake about how sad it must be for the Russian refugees she’s helping. Robert says it’s too bad Sarah didn’t stay so she could lecture them all on how much those wicked aristocrats deserved it.

Tom: You do realize the old system in Russia was unbelievably horrifying for all but about .05% of the population, right? And that many of us just hope the new regime will be an improvement over hell on earth?

Robert: I have no sympathy for murderers.

Tom: Nor should you, but let’s not forget that England killed its king once upon a time, so it’s not as if there isn’t a bit of blood on our hands as well.

Robert: I didn’t kill him personally

Tom: And I didn’t kill the tsar and his family. What’s your point?

Bricker: Oooh, this is positively titillating!

Cora: Oh, poor you, Mr Bricker, coming up north to see a painting and getting caught in the middle of yet another family squabble! Let’s go look at some art for a bit, shall we?

On his way out of the dining room, Robert asks Carson how plans are going for the memorial. Carson reports that he’s losing this battle, but he’d like to be convinced rather than defeated.

Rose: My only job this entire episode is to bang on about the wireless, because I’m young and the young’uns are the only ones who care about technology. Also, it helps to illustrate what a myopic, uptight, backwards caricature your character has become, Robert, so here we go: did you hear the king is going to speak on the wireless?

Robert: No, surely not!

Rose: Totes!

Robert: Well, if the king is using the wireless, so must we!

Carson: Surely he’s being forced to do so by his evil councilors!

Robert: We must still support him in his hour of humiliation! Let’s hire one of these contraptions.

Baxter finds Molesley outside, getting some air, and asks if she’s let him down. He says no, since it’s not really his business to pass sentence on her. She repeats that she’s changed, but she still won’t say why she did it, saying there’s no point in passing the sin along. She would give anything to take it all back, but she can’t, not even for him.

Bricker and Cora admire the painting and talk about how it came into the family (2nd Earl’s grand tour). They’re also exchanging some serious chemistry, until Robert comes in to ruin it.

Daisy’s all excited, because Sarah finally made her understand what she’s doing with the numbers. Hughes comes in and warns Daisy not to sing the woman’s praises in front of Carson, because he hates Sarah. Carson swings through the kitchen and pulls Hughes aside to tell her that he doesn’t like it when they differ in opinion. She reminds him that she’s an actual, thinking individual, so that’s bound to happen sometime. He: I know, but I don’t like it.

Cora, like Molesley, is trying to pry more information out of Baxter, who won’t give it to her either. Cora muses that it’s pretty stupid of her to keep Baxter on, since she’s an admitted jewel thief and a big part of her job is looking after Cora’s priceless jewelry. But she can’t quite bring herself to do it.

The younger set gossip about Tom. Mary thinks he’s turning back into who he really is. Blake asks if that’s bad. Mary doesn’t think so. Rose goes up to bed, followed by Blake. Unable to help herself, Mary calls after him that she hopes he’ll be happy for her, if she chooses Gil. He says he’ll totally be happy, if she’s happy, but she should really think about this, because for some reason he thinks Mary is cleverer than Gil. I have no idea where he’s getting that idea, since Mary’s never seemed that extraordinarily clever and Gil seems quite mentally competent. She says he’s not being fair and that she’s not some overheated housemaid panting over a hot guy. He frankly tells her that sex respects no rank and bids her goodnight.

Robert comes to bed, grousing that Tom’s nothing but a ventriloquist’s dummy for Sarah’s nonsense, because Tom, of course, couldn’t possibly have thoughts of his own that he wants to express. Cora thinks she may have given Tom the confidence to say what he really thinks.

Robert: She’s pulling him back to the dark side, and he’s not allowed to take his daughter with him!

Cora: Let’s just chill the hell out, ok?

Robert: Don’t tell me to chill! And tell Brickert to stop flirting with my dog! And by dog, of course, I mean wife, but I can’t say as much because I’m British and upper class and therefore repressed. Despite the fact that you’ve spent more than half your life in England, you’re still American and couldn’t possibly understand!

Cora: Right, whatever.

Anna’s got Mary all packed up for the weekend bonkfest. Mary, clearly needing to justify this to herself, tells Anna that she really needs to be sure she wants this guy to be her friend, lover, and life partner, because she doesn’t want to end up divorced. I could point out that sexual compatibility doesn’t necessarily guard against that, but I doubt Mary would listen.

Robert takes Carson to a spot in the middle of the town, which he thinks is the perfect spot for the war memorial. Carson thinks it’ll just end up being a place for people to gossip and tie their shoes.

Robert: If that’s what you think, let’s go talk to this incredibly convenient lady standing over here. Let’s call her deus ex-Downtonian. What ho, there!

DeD: Top of the morning to you, milord. I’m just hovering here right on the spot where you want to put your memorial, waiting for my son to finish the regular conversation he has with his tragically dead father in the churchyard yonder. He accompanies me to the shops just so he can do that, even though he looks to be about 16 and could surely make his way here by himself if he wanted. My husband was a great guy and I don’t want my son to forget him. DO YOU HEAR ME? WE MUST REMEMBER!

Robert: Thank you so much, lady of convenience. Your words have made an impression. Haven’t they made an impression, Carson?

Carson: Totally. They’ve made an impression. I’m now 100% sold on the war memorial now being right here.

Joking aside for now, is the show deliberately sliding into self-parody? Because that last scene was so ridiculous I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out later that Robert paid that woman to stand around just so she could talk to Carson. It was all just a bit too convenient, which makes it silly when it shouldn’t have been.

Wireless guy sets up the wireless, and Daisy wonders why it’s called that when there are so many, um, wires. Patmore has no idea. Rose is entranced, but when the guy turns it on, she wonders why nothing’s happening. He tells her to cool her jets, because it’s warming up. A signal comes through and she’s like, oooh, jazz! So thrilling! Carson finds some of the servants loitering and shoos them away before Violet shows.

Hughes: Downton is catching up with the times we live in.


Edith’s back at the Drews’. Mr Drew thanks her again for her generosity, while his wife thanks her much more tersely. After Edith leaves, Drew scolds his wife for not being more excited and she slings back that this child isn’t a doll to be played with until Edith loses interest. Drew tiredly says she won’t.

Violet and Isobel have joined the family for the king’s speech. The household staff is arrayed behind the family. As the speech begins, Violet, looking rather disconcerted, gets to her feet. Patmore worries that the king can hear them, but Daisy reminds her that this isn’t Skype.

Mary arrives at the hotel in…LiverpoolReally? Who plans a sex weekend in Liverpool? ‘Oooh, oooh, I’m so excited, we’re going away for a nice romantic weekend in Liverpool!’ said nobody, ever. Gil’s not trying too hard here. Speaking of not trying too hard, Mary checks into the hotel under her own name. So much for ‘nobody must ever know.’

The king’s speech ends and Robert, looking rather affected, asks Carson and Hughes what they thought.

Carson: I don’t like it. Technology is icky and kings should be distant.

Hughes: It’s my job to always be in opposition to Carson now, so consider me in favour of the king seeming more man than myth.

Isobel comments that the radio somehow makes the king more real, which Violet thinks is a terrible idea if the monarchy wants to survive. We can’t have these people seeming human!

Belowstairs, Anna expresses some sympathy to Thomas on the loss of Jimmy. Thomas sulks that he’s not very likeable to people there, and that there are times he’d like to belong. Well, Thomas, you could put in the tiniest effort on that front, instead of making yourself as miserable a human being as possible. I have no sympathy for you. You’re not even trying. But of course he gets sympathy from Anna.

Carson asks Robert if they should arrange to have the wireless collected but both Rose and Cora beg to keep it for a while, so he relents.

Mary gets settled in her room and gets a knock on the door joining her room with the one next door. It’s Gil, of course. She comments that not giving a false name is stupid, which it is, but he says that if they should just happen to run into someone they know, it’ll look a little less suspicious. She asks how he got the rooms together and he basically says he asked the manager. Man, she really doesn’t know how anything works in the world, does it? She asks what the plan is and he replies thus: Dinner, then we’ll come back here and screw each other’s brains out until one or both of us actually falls unconscious. Mary’s all, well, I never! Sounds thrilling!

Hughes asks Carson how the war memorial thing’s coming along and he says he was convinced and the memorial will be in the village. Plus, he and Hughes are back in agreement, so win-win! She gets all verklempt.

Thomas than interrupts to announce that there’s a policeman there to see Carson. It’s the local constable, who knows Carson, who eye-rollingly tells Thomas his scaremongering hasn’t worked. Copper’s there to give Carson a head’s up that there may be some questions forthcoming about Green, because a witness to his bus accident has suddenly materialized. Mrs Hughes practically wets herself.

5 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Sex on the Brain

  1. Love your recaps. Love them! I am waiting for the Baxter story to be revealed. She’s undoubtedly protecting someone or there’s more to the story besides “I was a common criminal.” I am tiring quickly of the lack of dimension (suddenly) in several of these characters. It seems as if everyone had potential to be likeable previously, but now — Robert, Violet, Mary, Edith, Sarah, ugh…. They all seem to be very self-involved and not likeable. I wanted to put them all on a long carriage ride to parts unkown.

  2. Robert’s line to Cora about telling Bricker to stop flirting with Isis was AWFUL. I spend way too much time being offended on Cora’s behalf.

    I’m so bored with Edith’s plot. I mean, could Drew have been any more obvious? Poor Mrs. Drew.

    I’m totally up for some Cora/Bricker flirting. I hope Blake + Mary does not happen. That whole ship is just too forced, worse than Gil. Also, is it just me or are Mary and Gil super awkward? Maybe it’s because none of the romances (except early Anna/Bates) seem at all realistic/interesting.

    On the whole though, I’m enjoying this season way more than the last. But ugh, more angst with Bates?

    1. I’m with you on all of this. The whole family’s treatment of Cora is pretty cringe-inducing, Mary has no chemistry with anyone, ever, and the Edith plotline is a drag. Sigh.

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