Downton Abbey: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

downton51Previously on Downton Abbey: Mary was seriously depressed about Matthew dying, but bounced back enough to start taking a more active role in the running of the estate and to start playing two suitors off of each other. The new lady’s maid has a secret that Thomas knows about, but she’s got an ally in Molesley, who’s now a footman. Tom made the acquaintance of a rather pushy and grating local schoolteacher, and a lord began flirting with Isobel. Edith consummated her relationship with Michael just before he departed for Germany to try and secure a divorce and promptly disappeared after a run-in with some brownshirts. Now pregnant (because the universe can’t stop crapping on her for even a second), Edith secretly gives birth, and then stashes the kid with a local farmer who kind of owes the Crawleys a favour.

Edith bikes off to the Drew home, which appears to be a converted church, and spies on her now toddler daughter happily helping Mrs Drew with the laundry.

Back at the Abbey, Robert moans about the new Labour government. Yes, that’s right, Ramsay MacDonald’s in charge and OMG THE PROLES ARE RISING! Both Mary and Tom roll their eyes and Mary accuses him of disapproving of MacDonald because he’s from a poor background. Kind of rich of her to accuse someone else of snobbery. Isn’t this the same woman who only started to seriously consider one suitor when she found out he was rich and well-born? Robert protests that he objects to a government determined to ruin people like them. His attitude is one that plenty of people of his class had been expressing since the late Victorian period, when men from poor and middle-class backgrounds started to become MPs, pushing out the men from the landed class who saw running the country on all levels as their birthright.

Talk turns to the local school, which Rose has gotten involved in. Robert grouses that they didn’t ask him to replace someone on the school board. Tom says he feels guilty about the school, because he thinks he should support it more. Rose invites him to come along to a prizegiving. The kiddies are about to be brought in, which Robert takes as his cue to leave, because small children have cooties or whatever, and he doesn’t enjoy the company of anything that can’t answer back and doesn’t walk on four legs. He’s also annoyed that Sybbie calls him ‘Donc’ as in ‘Donkey’, which seems accurate. He wonders why she can’t call him grandpapa, but geez, Robert, she’s all of, what, three? More than one syllable is pretty difficult. He snits that he doesn’t want George to ‘catch it’, like familial nicknames are some kind of disease. The children come in and he gives them hugs and Syblit says ‘Bye bye Donc,’ which is actually quite cute.

Down in the kitchens, Daisy exposits that they haven’t bothered to hire a kitchenmaid to replace Ivy, and the others say that many houses are finding it hard to replace servants. Also, it’s the Crawleys’ 34th wedding anniversary soon. Daisy wonders what life’ll be like by the time she’s celebrating a 34th anniversary, which leads to a discussion about her possibly taking over the Mason farm someday. She doesn’t think she could manage it, because she’d have to do maths and things.

Edith has tea with the Drews and plays with the little girl, whose name is Marigold. Marigold? Really? That poor kid. She’s super obvious about her attachment to this kid, totally ignoring the other Drew children. Mrs Drew eventually brings the visit to a close and Edith reluctantly hands her daughter back. After she leaves, a bemused Mrs Drew remarks that Edith has a soft spot for her husband. As she cycles away, Edith tries not to cry.

Violet and Isobel take a walk and Isobel tells Violet she’s not interested in a romance with Lord Merton. Too bad, says Violet, since Merton’s enlisted her help to throw a luncheon party so he can flirt with Isobel a little bit more. Isobel whinges about how hard it is to avoid him, which is absurd. Just don’t go to lunch, Isobel. Violet claims it’s not difficult at all, if she really wants to stay out of the guy’s way. It sounds like Isobel doesn’t quite know what she wants.

Back at Downton, Thomas comes upon Jimmy with a letter from his former employer, Lady Anstruther, who’s been putting the moves on Jimmy big time. Thomas suggests he head up to London and put her out of her misery and Jimmy says he would, but he’s sure he’ll pay for that eventually. Carson comes along and shoos them both upstairs.

As the family gathers for dinner, Robert informs them that there’s some village committee coming by the following day to discuss the building of a war memorial. They want Carson in on the discussion. Robert assumes they’re coming to ask him (Robert, not Carson) to chair the committee. Cora comes in and tells everyone he just got off the phone with Gillingham, who’s coming to stay for a few days right over the anniversary. Robert hopes it inspires him with thoughts of marriage. Translation: let’s get this daughter off our hands already.

In the servants’ hall, Anna shares the news of Gillingham’s impending visit with Bates, though how she already knows is a mystery to me. She supports the match, and apparently neither of them are considering the implications of Mary remarrying. If Mary goes off to her new husband’s home, she’ll take Anna with her, right? But Bates will remain behind with Robert. So, unless Gil lives right in the neighbourhood, this could get a bit messy. From the other side of the room, Thomas joins Baxter, who seems to have lost the spine she gained in the Christmas special, and tells her he really wants to know what she knows about Bates and Anna. Molesley comes along, scaring Thomas off, and Baxter asks him how a recent trip to York went.

As they head to the servants’ hall, Carson tells Hughes about the meeting the next day. In the hall, the servants are talking about the new government. Most of them are excited about it, thinking that MacDonald will understand the lives of the 99% a bit better than those who came before. I guess they’re forgetting about Lloyd George, who also came from a poor background.

As they get ready for bed, Cora and Robert discuss this war memorial committee. Robert confesses he’s embarrassed to lead it, since he didn’t fight, and thinks that someone else from the area who did serve should be in charge. What, like Strallen? Cora points out that he’s the natural choice, being the local lord and all.

The next day, the committee, led by a slightly pushy woman, arrives and quickly burst Robert’s bubble. They want to ask him for a piece of land and have Carson serve as chairman. Carson’s startled and thinks Robert should have the position. The woman claims it’s because Carson knows more of the men who died than Robert did, and Carson’s a particular personage in the village. But…Robert isn’t? Robert seems disturbed. Carson asks for time to think about it. She briskly agrees and orders him to serve her some tea, milk first (in the Gosford Park commentary, Fellowes says that’s a class signifier: upper classes could afford tea more easily back when it was super expensive, so would put little milk in, at the very end. The lower classes stretched their tea by putting milk in the cup first and adding a little tea to that.)

Jimmy has yet another letter from Lady A. He tells Thomas this is all because he sent her some Valentines, as a joke, which she apparently took seriously.

Robert goes to visit his mummy and tells her about the war memorial committee. She’s surprised he’s not going to be chairman. Robert turns his attention to Isobel’s romance and comments that it’ll be kind of funny to see her as a great lady of the neighbourhood, putting the rest of them in their place. Now it’s Violet’s turn to look disturbed.

A mystery package arrives for Daisy, but she refuses to say what it is. Hughes joins Carson in his office and asks if he’s going to lead this committee and he says he hasn’t and is uncomfortable that Robert’s been passed over, since Robert was clearly pretty hurt over it. Poor little darling. Carson worries about things changing and Hughes tells him that change is gonna come, whether he wants it or not.

Hughes heads upstairs and runs into Edith. She passes along a German primer she found that apparently belonged to Michael, and she thought Edith should have it. Edith takes it, and then asks for it to be put in her room as she’s joined by Tom and Rose on their way to the prizegiving.

Robert finds Cora and tells her he doesn’t approve of Tom getting involved in the school because he’s heard some unsavoury things about his behaviour with a certain schoolteacher while they were in London. Mary comes in, asks about the war memorial, and is pleased to hear that Carson’s been asked to be chairman.

The prizegiving wraps up and the kiddies march out. Edith finds Drew and congratulates him on his son winning something. He asks her for a face-to-face and she agrees to meet the next day.

Sarah has a little chat with Tom as Rose sidles up. Edith hurries them along, since it’ll be dinnertime soon.

Violet’s got Clarkson over for tea, and her obnoxious butler completely ignores him and has to be told to offer Clarkson some tea. The hell now? Is this really the first time she’s ever had Clarkson at her house for tea or something? I find that impossible to believe, since she’s been involved with the hospital for many years now. Plus, the local doctor was a person of importance in a village and would have been invited to the local aristocrats’ homes every now and again. And even if he’s never been to the dower house before, it wouldn’t matter: no way would any servant conspicuously snub the guest of their employer in that manner. Even if you thought serving that person was beneath you or not worthy of having tea with her ladyship, she’s invited this man over. He’s her guest. She has conferred status on him by entertaining him. You serve him some goddamn cake whether you like it or not.

Once Sprat leaves, Violet brings up Isobel and Merton’s ‘friendship’. He pouts a bit and expresses surprise that she’s entertaining the idea of a life as a lady but says this is entirely Isobel’s business. Violet invites him to the luncheon Merton asked her to organise. Well, well, you really are putting the cat amongst the pigeons, aren’t you, Violet?

After dinner, Mary joins her father in the library and asks if it really bothers him that he’s not chairing the committee. He sighs that such a thing wouldn’t have happened in his grandfather’s day, and he’s feeling a bit unwanted these days. Mary says she wants him around, because she and he and Tom make a good team.

Thomas catches Baxter on the stairs and tells her he’s tired of waiting. He wants some juicy intel.

Edith opens the German primer and stares at Michael’s signature on the first page.

Robert tells Cora that Merton’s chasing Isobel and Cora guesses that Violet’s getting jealous. Robert thinks she’d be thrilled to see Isobel happily married. He doesn’t’ know his mother well at all, does he? But I guess he’s had to deal with her on a personal level a lot less than his wife has.

Patmore finds Daisy in the kitchen poring over an arithmetic primer. Daisy explains that she thought she should start learning a little bit about sums and such, so she can be prepared for this fast-changing world, but she can’t understand any of it and she assumes it’s because she’s too stupid. I’m guessing we’re going to find out she’s dyslexic or something. Daisy throws a wobbler and rushes out.

Molesley applies some thick, vile-looking dye to his hair.

The following day, Rose seeks Branson in his estate office and suggests he invite Sarah to the house sometime. She adds that it’s his home too and he can have his friends over. He can even have his own life! He says he knows, but you’ve got to figure it’s awkward, living in your in-laws’ home and inviting a potential girlfriend over. He says as much and Rose says they’ll just have to get used to the idea. ‘Easier said than done,’ says he.

Robert and Cora reassure Carson they’re delighted by the idea of him leading the committee. He confesses to being uncomfortable with the way the traditional order of things has been disrupted, but Robert puts on some big-boy pants and says this could signal a new tradition. Carson departs and Cora reminds her husband he’s on a lot of committees already, so it’s really for the best, right?

Drew tells Edith that his wife thinks she has a crush on him, and also that he totally knows that the kid’s Edith’s. She seems surprised that he figured it out, which is a little dumb of her, because it was so absurdly obvious, and he knew right from the moment she asked him to take the kid in. He promises her secret’s safe with him, but they need to find some way for Edith to have contact with this little girl without it being really apparent that she’s unusually attached.

Carson tells Hughes he’s accepted the position, but also that Robert’s sad that things are changing. She shrugs.

Anna and Bates talk about this potential Mary/Gil hookup and Bates wonders how he’d feel if he’d inherited someone else’s child when he married. That, of course, brings up the possibility of little Bateses, which Anna says is in God’s hands. Thomas comes in and goes to threaten Baxter some more, so Molesley leaps to his feet and invites her for a quick walk. Thomas turns to Jimmy and asks what’s up with him. Jimmy says he telephoned Lady A to try and get her to lay off, but she’s still too keen. Thomas remarks that it’s pathetic for someone like her to be pining over a footman. Jimmy thinks it shows good taste.

Violet has her friend, Lady Shackleton (Harriet Walter!) for a quick visit to sound her out regarding Merton (she seems to consider him a fairly good sort) and to invite her to this luncheon, which is quickly turning into a proper party. Lady S accepts and comments that a single peer won’t remain so for long. Violet observes that she sounds like Mrs Bennett. And you, Violet, are sounding a bit like Caroline Bingley. Remember: nobody likes the Bingley sisters.

Baxter tells Molesley that Thomas thinks she knows something about Bates, though I can’t for the life of me think why he’d think that. Oh, she does know something. She knows he went down to London the day Green died. Wait, how does she know that? The only people who knew about that ticket were Hughes and Mary, right? And those two certainly wouldn’t have told anyone. Molesley urges her to tattle to Cora but Baxter says she can’t. She then notices he’s done something funny to his hair. And when asked, she overguesses his age by a year. He pouts.

On their way in to dinner, Cora tells Robert that Lady Anstruther has just invited herself for tea, even though they don’t really know her. The girls ask if there’s anything planned for the anniversary and the parents urge them to plan something and invite their friends. Rose gets an idea.

In the Pug’s Parlour, Hughes, Patmore, and Carson talk about Daisy’s mathematical pursuits, which both Carson and Patmore think is a waste of time, because Daisy’s a cook, and heaven knows, cooks don’t need to use math ever. God, the idiocy of these people sometimes. Hughes points out that cooks have to work out budgets all the time, which you’d think that Patmore, being a cook, would be aware of. She also says Daisy may not be a cook forever. Carson still doesn’t think they should encourage this. Ass. Daisy comes in and says she’s heading up to bed. Once she leaves, Patmore says she’s lost her confidence because she couldn’t work out the workbook. Is that really all it takes? Daisy needs to toughen up.

Cora asks who the girls plan to invite and Mary says that Rose wants to ask ‘some friend of Tom’s’ from the village. Edith chimes in that the woman’s quite respectable, so it’s all good.

Mary starts to get ready for bed and talks to Anna about the Gil relationship. She says she hasn’t made up her mind what to do with him (of course she hasn’t) and comments that it’s strange they have to come to these decisions without sleeping with the other person first, which is a problem, because it sucks to find out after the vows that two people aren’t sexually compatible.

The next morning, Jimmy shows Thomas a note from Lady A, saying she’ll see him soon. Carson comes into the servants’ hall and says Gil’s arriving that day but hasn’t mentioned a valet. Molesley’s ready to serve, but Carson, for some reason, passes him over and asks Bates to look after the man. Carson, too, notes that Molesley’s messed with his hair. Julian, this running gag isn’t nearly as funny as you think it is.

Sarah has apparently turned down the invitation to dinner, so Rose goes to the school to investigate. Turns out Sarah’s seen Mean Girls or something and figures this is some sort of a prank. Rose nicely reassures her it’s no such thing, and her presence is very much requested.

Molesley pouts about not being able to valet for Gil. Baxter comments that it’s ironic for Bates to dress the man and Thomas, passing by, jumps on that. She refuses to explain and quickly escapes.

Violet’s luncheon is underway. Before long, Lady Shackleton’s cozied up with Merton, chatting about his garden, while Isobel’s left with just Clarkson to chat with.

Gil arrives at Downton and is welcomed by the family and given a cup of coffee by Mary, who also congratulates Carson on his chairmanship. Gil thinks that these memorials are a good thing, to give people something to kind of focus on. He asks Tom about the famous pigs, which leads to Tom inviting him along on a rabbit shoot. Mary volunteers to go with them.

Carson tells Hughes he’s off to the post office.

After lunch, Clarkson gets snubbed by Sprat yet again, which Violet will not stand for, because that’s just ridiculous. Clarkson notes that he and Isobel just aren’t part of this tribe. Thank you, we get it. We’ve been getting it for several seasons now, we don’t need it explicitly spelled out and shown to us in this silly manner.

Carson has gathered the war memorial committee together and takes them into the pub.

Baxter arrives at the boot room, only to find the shoes she was looking for missing. Thomas appears with them, because he has nothing to do but stalk this woman, and demands to know what she knows about Bates. She clams up, so he tells her she has until after dinner to tell him, or he’ll spill her secret to Cora. Quick question: does anyone else care about Baxter’s dirty secret? I find myself struggling to give a crap. Also, I am so done with Thomas. What an utterly pointless character he is.

Tom, Gil, and Mary are out to get those rabbits. Gil asks Tom if he still plans to go to America and Tom says that nothing’s set. He goes to fetch a dead bunny and Gil asks Mary if she’s afraid of being left alone to control Robert. Yeah, that is at least a two-man job, right? She is not, saying that, as long as she does her research he’ll listen to her. They talk about the future and Gil says he only dreads it if he has to live it without her. She admits that she loves him, in her ‘cold and unfeeling way’ and that she would like to marry again, so that’s progress, but she wants to make sure she’s as happy with husband #2 as she was with #1. As they all turn to return to the house, Mary brings up his lack of valet and he says he wants to make his life simpler.

Lady A shows up, and yeah, she’s as silly as Robert said earlier. Also, she’s played by Anna Chancellor (yay!) who not only played ‘Duckface’ in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but also played Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. She prattles on about how her car broke down, angling for an overnight invite to Downton, which she gets. Molesley comes in with tea and Robert notes that he ‘looks very Latin’ before asking if he’s got any Italian, Spanish, or Irish blood in him. Robert, that’s racist. Also, huh?

Belowstairs, Molesley advises Baxter to tell Cora the whole story before Thomas can get there. She steels herself and goes to do just that.

Thomas and Jimmy set the table and talk about Lady A’s sudden arrival. Thomas says she’s playing with Jimmy. Carson comes in and asks if Jimmy knew about her visit. He claims not to. Carson complains about her making extra work for everyone.

Baxter gets ready to tell Cora what she did. Apparently, she stole jewellry from a previous employer, got caught, and was locked up for three years. And she didn’t return the jewellry because by the time she was caught she didn’t have it anymore. Oh, ok. I’m sure it’ll turn out to be some kind of had-to-feed-a-starving-relative type of issue. For a second there, I thought she was going to confess to having an affair with a previous employer’s husband. That would’ve been juicy. Lucky for her, this family is notoriously lenient with personal servants who’ve been in prison. Baxter is dismissed and Robert comes in, commenting that Lady A’s car has absolutely nothing wrong with it. There’s a shock.

Bates helps Gil dress and comments on the fact that he hasn’t replaced Green. ‘We were all shocked by the death of Mr Green so soon after he was here,’ he says, which is a bit creepy, considering the circumstances. He asks if Green was with Gil long and Gil briskly says no.

Baxter runs into Molesley and tells him she spilled her guts to Cora, and though Cora was kind, Baxer’s future in the house is very uncertain. He says that, at least she won’t be there under a cloud anymore. She promises to tell him the whole story someday, but she worries about losing his good opinion. He rather desperately says she won’t, and then gets sent topside by Carson.

Lady A intercepts Jimmy and accuses him of avoiding her and ignoring her letters. Carson spots them and orders Jimmy to show her where the drawing room is.

There’s a nice little gathering in the drawing room, and Lady A immediately calls the Crawleys out on not having cocktails. Carson announces Sarah and Robert immediately gets all uptight and tells Cora that she’s the misbehaving schoolteacher who visited while they were in London. Rose, meanwhile, introduces her friend to Sarah and explains that Sarah’s a schoolteacher. The friend nicely asks what Sarah teaches and comments that she was always hopeless at subjects like writing and maths. ‘Well, then, you must ensure you marry someone rich enough that you never need to [use those skills]’ Sarah responds. Wow, what a bitch. Who the hell shows up at someone’s house and immediately starts insulting their fellow guests? Tom looks embarrassed, probably because he remembers when he was the person acting like this during a Downton visit. He asks Sarah what she’s doing there and learns that Rose invited her. He does not seem appreciative.

Violet and Isobel show up, Violet complaining about having had to attend two parties on one day. She notes Sarah’s presence and declares her and Tom ‘an alliance that does not bode well.’ Robert agrees, and Edith calls her a snob. While Violet is doubtless referring to Sarah’s lower social status, I think she’s kind of right that pairing Sarah with Tom could be a recipe for fireworks over the canapés, and not the good kind.

Belowstairs, Anna tells Thomas and Jimmy that Lady A clearly faked her car trouble. Jimmy claims not to know what the woman wants, but come on, Jimmy, you’re not that naïve. He tells Thomas this whole thing is embarrassing. It actually kind of is. Thomas says it’ll probably get more embarrassing if Jimmy doesn’t find a way to keep her quiet.

Before dinner starts, Robert gives a toast comparing marriage to a lottery, which is a bit tactless coming from someone who totally married Cora for her money. He goes on to praise her, which is sweet, and thoughtfully leaves out the mention of her cold, hard cash. Once it’s all over, Violet too asks what’s up with Molesley’s hair. Isobel congratulates Carson on his appointment to the chairmanship while Rose’s friend asks if Sarah is terribly clever, adding that Sarah clearly felt she was terribly stupid. Well, she’s not so dumb not to know when she’s being insulted. The guy sitting next to her comments that they shouldn’t shoot Sarah down for that. Man, what is wrong with everyone? This poor woman! As Jimmy serves Lady A, she slips something into his pocket and appears to cop a bit of a feel while she does it. This does not escape Carson’s notice. Or Gil’s, because he asks Lady A if she knows the footman. She explains he used to work for her.

Sarah has decided to go all in and pipes up that she doesn’t think these war memorials are a good idea. Oh heavens. Mary and Gil think they give people a focus for their sorrow (which is an important thing, especially for those who never got a body back.) and act as a reminder of the sacrifice of the millions who died. Sarah says she’d be fine with a memorial service (which would be over quickly and swiftly forgotten, and utterly unknown to future generations) but she thinks a stone edifice to remind them all of the deaths in a pointless war serves no purpose and is a waste of money. Holy. Shit. This woman is not only a rude asshole, she’s also stupid as hell. Clearly she doesn’t understand what these sorts of memorials are supposed to be for. They don’t commemorate the war, Sarah, they are there to honour the dead and to remind the people who subsequently come along that really bad shit went down and maybe we should all stop to think about that. It’s to honour the millions of innocent people who gave their lives to stop a meglomaniacal emperor from just helping himself to giant chunks of Europe. So I don’t think you can really say that the war was ‘pointless’. It was horrifying and far, far more damaging than it should have been, but I think most people would agree that the Kaiser needed to be stopped. I’d also think that someone like her would have applauded the fact that the war brought several creaking, anarchic monarchies to an end. But seriously, what a completely shitty thing to say, especially to a table full of people who served and lost loved ones. Robert blanches and tells her she’s talking nonsense. Isobel, of course, defends Sarah, saying she’s allowed an opinion. Why yes, Isobel, she is. And Robert is allowed one too. Sarah is also allowed to show she’s been taught the most basic manners, which she has yet to do. She knows how her hosts and everyone else at the table feel, and yet she’s sneering at them. And she’s also kind of insulting Carson, the man in charge of this project, by calling it pointless. Really, there’s no good to be had here, and Isobel should have stayed out of it. But she never misses an opportunity to back someone who goes against her relatives, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Tom tries to smooth the waters but does a poor job of it, and Sarah goes on to blithely say that millions of men are dead and there’s no more justice than there was before. Are you kidding me? She really is stupid and clueless. For one thing, the war led directly to the widening of the voting franchise in Britain to all men and many women, which allowed that labour government to come into power. For the first time, all men below the landowning and middle classes could vote. You call that no justice? It also led to some significant changes in how warfare and relationships between countries were conducted. Yes, it was clearly an imperfect system, but they were trying, at least. Oh, you know what, I can’t even. She’s just a straw man at this point, yet another hateable middle-class character, because Julian Fellowes totally hates the middle class.

As if she weren’t already bad enough, Sarah goes on to twist the knife in Robert’s side by commenting rather spitefully that it’s a shame the committee didn’t want him, since he puts up such a spirited defense. Robert, go ahead and tell her to leave now. She’s behaving so very inappropriately and really ruining your anniversary dinner. Mary gets her ‘well, I never!’ look on her face, Violet looks disturbed, and Rose is clearly a bit mortified. The whole table goes really quiet. Finally, Carson saves things by saying that, actually, the committee met that afternoon and decided they wanted Robert to be their patron. Sarah absolutely sulks. Bitch. Violet asks if they can finish their meal in peace, and Isobel, who never did learn when to just let things go, says she admires it when young people stand up for their principles. That’s not what’s happening here, Isobel. This woman’s deliberately provoking everyone, and that’s not admirable, that’s incredibly rude. And she’s doing it by disrespecting the sacrifice of millions of brave men, including your own son. Stop and think about that for a second. She called your son’s service pointless.

After dinner, Carson catches Jimmy and asks about the note Lady A passed him at dinner. When he asks to see it, Thomas sidles up and says that Jimmy threw it away. Thomas’s deep involvement in this whole thing is starting to feel really creepy, considering his sexual interest in Jimmy. And considering that, it also feels really strange that Jimmy would be confiding to him about this whole situation. But then, memories are really short lived in this house.

Jimmy is sent on his way and Hughes asks Carson about the committee meeting. He says he told them he wouldn’t accept the chairmanship unless they made Robert patron, so they agreed.

In the drawing room, Isobel tells Mary she enjoyed both parties, which were interesting, though in different ways. Well, they were certainly rude and passive aggressive in different ways. Mary asks her about Merton and Isobel makes it clear she knows Violet was trying to scuttle the relationship.

Sarah tells Tom she wants to go meet the servants before she leaves, because of course she does. He suggests she just go and stop making trouble. Rose takes the opportunity to tell Tom she thought he was splendid at dinner. Whatever.

Mary goes and orders Edith to cheer up, because she’s putting a dampener on the evening. Mary, leave Edith alone. She’s not the problem here. ‘I thought only imbeciles were happy all the time,’ Edith shoots back. Ha!

Sarah’s finally decided it’s time for her to go, so she goes to thank Robert and Cora for having her, which almost seems sarcastic at this point. Cora kindly lies that it was a pleasure. Sarah asks to see the staff but Robert says they’ll be sitting down to their supper and they don’t want to disturb them during one of the few breaks they actually get. But of course, Sarah insists, and Cora acquiesces, figuring it’s best to just give this girl what she wants rather than to keep fighting. In a snit, Robert snaps at Carson to tell Molesley to stay belowstairs until his hair stops being so weird.

Belowstairs, Sarah gets a quick lesson on who gets breakfast trays and who has to eat in the dining room before answering Daisy’s question as to what she teaches. Since she specifically mentions mathematics, I think we can assume she’ll be tutoring Daisy soon.

As Cora prepares to go upstairs, Thomas asks for a word and whispers that he’s learned something disturbing about Baxter. Cora cuts him off, saying she knows all about it, and what she really wants to know is why did he put a thief in her employ. Oh, right back at you, Thomas! Really, your scheming little brain didn’t anticipate this being an issue? Cora’s not that smart, but she’s not an imbecile (though she does seem happy pretty much all the time, so…) He blunders that he wanted her to have another chance and Cora says that should have been her decision, and now she has to consider his position in the house. He sees Baxter on the back stairs and snarls, ‘you think you’re so clever, don’t you?’ Cleverer than you, clearly.

Tom joins Robert in the library and tells him Sarah’s left. Robert is still in a terrible mood. Tom apologises for arguing with him at dinner, but Sarah reminded him of how he used to be. Rude, self-righteous, and obnoxious? Yeah, it reminded me of how you used to be too. I hated you then. Robert asks if he really wants to go backwards, having come so far. Tom doesn’t seem so sure. But he abruptly tells Robert that he and Sarah aren’t in a relationship. Robert says he’s less worried about that than the idea that Sarah’s taking him back to being all hateful and rebellious. Tom says that’s not happening

Cora sits down with Baxter and asks her why she did what she did. Baxter has no explanation. At least, she doesn’t have one she’s willing to provide. Cora admits she’s shocked, but she doesn’t sack good servants, so as long as she promises never to steal again, she can stay. For the time being, at least.

Mary tells Anna she hopes not to have to see more of Sarah, because she makes Robert say things he doesn’t mean, and then he hates himself afterwards. What did he say that he didn’t mean? What he said actually made sense to me.

Belowstairs, Carson tells Molesley to fix his hair or remain confined to the kitchen. Since Molesley’s already keenly feeling his tumble down the service hierarchy and has no desire to become Ivy’s replacement, he washes out the dye.

Edith sits in bed, crying, looking at a baby picture of Marigold, and fingering Michael’s German primer. She throws the primer aside in frustration and turns over to cry herself to sleep. The primer lands in the fire, and then flops back out again, flaming.

Thomas accompanies Jimmy to Lady A’s room. What the hell? Yeah, this is really, really creepy now. Along the way, they see Gil going into Mary’s room. Thomas gives Jimmy some last minute advice (be back in your room by 3) and offers to stand watch until he’s safely in her room. thanks him, calling him a ‘real pal.’ Yeesh, this whole thing gives me the willies. Why is he so invested in this hookup? Jimmy

Gil’s gone to Mary’s room to ask her to go away with him for a long weekend of talking all day and sexing all night. Mary considers it, and then tells him nobody must know about it. Oh, Mary, don’t you know by now that none of your sexual indiscretions remain secret?

On his way back downstairs, Thomas smells smoke, goes to Edith’s room, and finds it aflame. He raises the alarm and then runs in to rescue her (she’s unconscious). Tom grabs the kids and then hands them off to Mary so he can help Robert fight the flames. Robert reels off instructions, which, of course, include ‘save the dog!’ before going to wake the guests. Thomas quickly offers to do so himself, but Robert’s already gotten a head start and bursts into Lady A’s room, where he finds her in flagrante with Jimmy. He pauses for a moment, then tells them there’s a fire.

Carson rouses the servants and starts evacuating them.

Robert returns to Edith’s room and takes over the firehose that Tom’s wielding. The flames are finally brought under control.

Edith’s recovered but tells her mother she feels stupid. Cora tells her not to worry about it, and then she goes to breathlessly thank Thomas for saving her and raising the alarm. The luck on this guy! Lady A tells Robert she’s just going to leave and he agrees that’s probably best. Anna and Bates arrive to make sure everyone’s ok, and Mary explains that ‘Edith chose to set fire to her room.’ God.

Robert goes over to Carson and tells him it’s time for Jimmy to move on. He’s getting a good reference, though, so lucky him. Drew, head of the local fire brigade, tells Robert that the house is ok, though Edith’s room is a mess. She’ll spend the rest of the night in Cora’s dressing room, since there’s a bed in there already made up (for Robert, which he never uses). Edith slips away to ask Drew if he’s had any ideas how they can hide the true nature of her relationship with Marigold and he says that she’s going to ‘take a great interest’ in the little girl. Uh, isn’t that what she’s already doing? I’m confused by this advice. Hughes comes over and sees them talking. Everyone heads back inside to get a bit more sleep.

3 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

  1. (I apologize if there’s a duplicate post…I clicked post and I got an error message).

    Not going to lie, I was waiting for your Downton recap 🙂

    This episode wasn’t that terrible, considering the trainwreck that was season 4. I was pleasantly surprised by how OK it was. There were laughs, a pretty high creepy factor, rude guests, shenanigans…overall, not bad. There was strangely a lack of Anna/Bates, which is probably good considering all the drama last season. And I do want to see that couple have some happy times – they probably are next after Edith for “let’s not give them a break.”

    OMG Edith. Can Michael just come back and she, he, and Marigold can be one big happy family? I actually thought she did let her room catch fire, but I guess that’s just Fellowes brainwashing me into thinking the worst for Edith.

    I thought Baxter’s secret was that she killed someone (but thinking about it, she would probably have been sentenced to death, yes? So…that’s not plausible at all). Her secret was definitely not as terrible as it could’ve been, but eh, it’s Downton.

    Sarah was super rude. I didn’t know what to think of her last season, esp. as she was written as so hot and cold. I actually think it would be interesting to match up Tom and Rose. I definitely saw something between those two way more than Sarah/Tom.

    I’m sure I had more thoughts, but for now, this is good. Oh yeah, Gill is weird. Jimmy is creepy and is he really to be dismissed? Because I will not miss him.

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