Previously on Downton Abbey: There were hints that we may soon know the fate of Michael, as if we didn’t already; Thomas sought treatment for his homosexuality, which doesn’t seem to be going well; Mary decided she didn’t want Gill after all, which he wasn’t ok with, but fortunately we have Blake on hand to make a really insulting proposal to Mabel that’s designed to make it all better.
A telegram arrives for Edith, and everyone collectively holds their breath as it’s delivered to her at breakfast. Robert heads upstairs and tells Cora that said telegram was from the editor of Michael’s newspaper, announcing his impending arrival at Downton with actual concrete news. Robert knows it has to be bad, because otherwise the guy would have telephoned. Things are still tense between Cora and Robert (well, Robert’s pretty uptight), just in case you were wondering. Cora sighs that even though Edith knows what’s coming, it’s still going to be super painful to hear it. Remember she said that as we move through this episode.
Belowstairs, Carson tells Hughes and Patmore about the telegram.
Patmore: What a shame. Oh, BTW, I’m going to go see that cottage again tomorrow. And I’m taking Hughes with me. Off I go to get lunch!
Carson: Hughes, what is this ‘cottage’ of hers like anyway?
Hughes: I have no idea. If you were listening, you would have heard her say we’re going to see it tomorrow. Want to tag along? Bury the hatchet over this whole memorial awkwardness that nobody’s mentioned in a while anyway?
Carson: Only if I’m expressly wanted. I’m kinda needy and insecure like that.
Anna’s fixing Mary’s hair and has evidently just told her about Michael’s apparent demise.
Mary (briskly, and this is honestly what she says): Well, of course it’s terrible, but what did she think he was doing, living in a tree?
Anna: Maybe try not to be an asshole for a little while, there? Like, delve deep, deep inside and try to access a little empathy?
Mary: Yeah, ok. He was a nice guy and all. Though what he saw in Edith…
That last bit is actually what she says. Dear god almighty, this woman. Are we supposed to like her? What kind of a person says something like that in these circumstances? Edith is about to receive confirmation that the man she loves is dead, and all Mary can think of is putting her down? Look, I know that plenty of people aren’t best friends with their siblings, but this show has taken it to kind of another level. This kind of longstanding hatred of a sibling is usually something that happens if that sibling has done something truly reprehensible, like sleeping with their sister’s husband, busting up the marriage, and then marrying the man herself. But Mary’s continuing hatred of Edith doesn’t make any sense at all. Even Edith’s moved past it because, you know, what’s what happens when people grow up and mature—they tend to grow out of teenage pettiness and mean girling—and Edith has a way better reason for continuing to loathe Mary than Mary has for loathing her, since Mary’s busting up Edith’s relationship with Strallen did far more longstanding damage than Edith’s letter actually did. What is this woman’s problem?
Mary is quickly distracted by a letter from Blake (presumably) reporting that there’s going to be a point-to-point in the neighbourhood that weekend and he’s persuaded Gill to ride in it. How’d he manage that? Are these two friends now? Mary considers joining them. Anna asks if they’re going to stay at Downton, and it seems they’ve gone ahead and invited themselves, for maximum awkwardness. Mary sighs and wonders if she’s looking a little frumpy, then pats her hair smugly and says she’s tempted to ‘remind them of what they’re missing.’ Don’t you want to break up with Gill? What a total bitch move.
Violet tells Isobel that Shrimpy thinks he’s close to tracking down Princess Kuragin. Isobel offers to go along when Violet tells the Prince, but Violet says she’ll handle this one on her own, thanks. Violet’s new lady’s maid, Denker, comes in and apologises for interrupting, but she was wondering what luggage Violet likes to use when she’s travelling. What an odd thing to ask when no travel is planned in the immediate future. Violet replies that she doesn’t travel much, but for those rare occasions, Denker can ask Sprat.
Denker: Oh, will he actually help me, then? That’s a shock.
Why does Violet always seem to end up with servants who have no idea what’s appropriate?
In the servants’ hall, Anna takes one look at Thomas and tells him he looks awful and should take some time off. He says he’s perfectly fine, but Bates agrees with his wife. Anna goes to grab her button box from the cottage, but Mary rings, so Bates goes to get it for her.
The mood at lunch is heavy. Robert tries to distract everyone with word that they should b e able to see drawings of the proposed houses soon. Mary tells them about the point-to-point and Rose perks up and says that Atticus mentioned it. She suggests they all go and make a day of it. Edith briefly gets an incredulous ‘do my feelings mean nothing to you people?’ look on her face. Seriously, what kind of a crap family responds to one member’s grief by saying ‘picnic on Saturday! Yippee!’ She says nothing, but they finally remember she’s there and Robert tells the others to let him and Edith meet with the editor alone when he arrives. Cora, step the hell up and join this meeting. If ever a girl needed the support of both her parents it’s now.
Bates pokes around the cottage and finds the copy of Married Love and the diaphragm or whatever that Mary made Anna hide for her. I think we all saw that coming.
Violet takes her maid with her to meet Kuragin, and apparently he’s living in a really terrible neighbourhood. Denker expresses surprise that Violet’s meeting anyone there and Violet basically tells her not to be an obnoxious snob before wondering how one’s supposed to knock on a door that has no knocker. Violet leaves Denker outside for the meeting.
The editor arrives and is shown inside. Carson the Gossip reports the arrival to Hughes and Patmore. Patmore tells Carson he’s welcome to come along the next day, as long as he buys the tea. She hustles back to the kitchen and suggests Daisy come along as well, but Daisy says she’s too busy. Patmore notes that she seems to be working even harder than when Sarah was around and Daisy says that she is because she doesn’t want to let Sarah down.
Kuragin’s room is dank and depressing, but at least he can make a bit of tea. He hands Violet a cup, which she accepts but doesn’t drink. She looks terribly sad to see this man brought so low. She tells him that Shrimpy may be closer to finding the princess, possibly in Hong Kong. Kuragin looks at her and says he wanted her from the first moment he saw her, and he wishes he could run away with her now. Violet reminds him that there’s no one to run away from and requests he leave the past in the past.
Carson gets off the phone and tells Hughes that Sgt Willis and the man from Scotland Yard are coming back, this time to see Baxter. Seriously? Ok, this has no gone on far too long. York and London are not close together, geographically. You’d spend the better part of a day getting from one place to another, and Scotland Yard detectives are busy people. One of them wouldn’t be wasting his time scurrying up to York constantly to question servants about a case that never should have been reopened anyway. They have phones for a reason, he could just telephone interview Baxter. But that doesn’t even make sense, because as Hughes points out, Baxter didn’t even work at Downton when the whole Greene thing went down. Hughes is more annoyed by the fact that his being there might make them miss their day trip to Patmore’s cottage.
Robert reports to Cora in the sitting room that it is as they feared: Michael was killed, apparently during the Beer Hall Putsch, and that little detail just goes to show that Fellowes isn’t even bothering to put the slightest bit of effort into maintaining a coherent timeline here. Or make use of Wikipedia, because the Beer Hall Putsch took place in November of 1923. It’s now spring 1924. Michael disappeared right about the time Edith first found out she was pregnant. FAIL. Cora’s like, ‘golly, this is a shame. This Hitler guy’s kind of a dick.’ Robert has more news: Edith has inherited Michael’s newspaper, so there’s that. ‘I suppose they did love each other,’ Robert muses. You think? The guy went all the way to Germany in the first place so he could marry her! That’s significant commitment to a relationship, Robert. Cora asks how Edith’s taking all this. Cora, I know your parenting skills are not great, especially when it comes to this daughter, but how about you get off your ass and go find out yourself? Honestly, wouldn’t any reasonably mother be off like a shot to go comfort their child after this kind of news? Do none of these people have human emotions anymore? This writing is so painfully lazy. Man, Seven of Nine had more empathy than the Crawleys, and she used to be Borg. Robert says it’s hard to say how she is and that she’s gone for a walk and wants to be on her own.
Edith goes immediately to the Drewes’, unsurprisingly, and practically begs for a moment with Marigold. Mrs Drewe refuses to let her in, completely dropping any pretence at civility. Mr Drewe comes outside and learns that the child’s father is dead. He says he’s trying to bring his wife around, but he needs time. Edith sharply tells him she doesn’t have time. I really feel for Mrs Drewe, because as I’ve said before this situation’s gotten out of hand, but I’m deeply cringing in sympathy for Edith throughout this scene. If ever she needed to be able to hold her child, it’s now, and she can’t even do that. This is making me just want to go and grab my little one…hang on, I’ll be right back.
Mmmm, baby cuddles.
Belowstairs, Thomas is showing about as much empathy as Mary did, and again it’s up to Anna to tell someone to attempt to reach into their craven, blackened little heart and dredge up some shred of humanity that might be floating around in there. Molesley asks Daisy what she’s studying, and when she answers with the War of the Spanish Succession, he tries to strike up a friendly conversation, but she completely ignores him and heads back to the kitchen. What was that about? Baxter tries to get him to continue, but having been shut down, now he’s all cowed.
Sprat bursts into the sitting room, where Violet is visiting with Isobel, and sputters that the new maid is behaving outrageously with regards to the laundry, absolutely refusing to wash Violet’s underwear and insisting everything be sent up to the big house to be done. Ok, this is not only completely inappropriate, it’s also totally creepy. What the hell does Sprat care whether or not the maid’s washing Violet’s drawers on the premises? Does he…like to watch or something? This is so weird and would never, ever be tolerated in the house of a grande dame like this. Violet’s a bit mortified, but Sprat ignores that and goes to fetch Denker, even though she didn’t ask him to. Once he’s gone, Isobel tells Violet that she’s come to a decision re: Merton and she wants to make the announcement that Saturday. In comes Denker, who unnecessarily announces there’s a problem with Sprat. Violet says they all pander to Sprat in the household (why?!) and Denker makes it clear she will do no such thing, but they’ll discuss this later, when Violet doesn’t have company. At least she has some concept of how to behave.
Anna finds Bates in the boot room and tries to chat with him, but quickly picks up on the freezing atmosphere surrounding him. She asks him what his deal is and, thankfully, he doesn’t draw it out but tells her what he found while looking for her button box. She tries to get indignant that he was poking around, despite the fact that she was the one who sent him looking. He sharply tells her that he’s the one who gets to be angry here, not her, which is also not the right response. Anna gets pissy and leaves.
Molesley sweetly brings Daisy a history book he thought she might be interested in, but she rather rudely refuses it. WTH is her problem? Patmore scolds her for being churlish so she oh so graciously agrees to have a look. Once he leaves, Patmore leans in and tells Daisy that he’s always been kind, and one should at least have the grace to be polite to people who are kind. It wouldn’t kill you, Daisy.
Cora goes into the dressing room, where Robert’s still camping out, and asks him again to come back to the marital bed. She reassures him that nothing happened between herself and Bricker, but Robert angrily says that she allowed the man into her private life. Yes, that’s right, apparently Cora is not allowed to have friends. Not male friends, anyway. She tells Robert that, if he can honestly say that he’s never let a flirtation get out of hand since they’ve been married, then by all means, stay in the dressing room and stew in his self-righteousness. Otherwise, get your ass back in your proper bed. She leaves, and Robert finally seems to remember that time he almost slept with one of the maids while his wife was dying of flu and he gets up and goes back into the bedroom. You’d think that this would prompt a whole hell of a lot of questions from his wife, but this is Cora we’re talking about, and apparently her brief foray into being interesting for the season is over, so now everything’s all better again and that was another wasted few moments of marital tension between these two.
Baxter meets with the inspector and tells him that she wasn’t even at Downton during Greene’s visit. He brings up her criminal history, which is news to Hughes, of course. Baxter says she thinks that there may have been some ‘incident’ when Greene was staying there, and possibly a secret journey to London, but she doesn’t have any concrete facts or proof. And we still have no idea how she even found out that much. She asks what made the inspector want to talk to her and he says they received an anonymous tip. And as we all know, busy police inspectors always get on the train and travel hundreds of miles to act on anonymous tips instead of, oh, I don’t know, having the local police make inquiries for them and report back. Once they leave, Hughes asks if Cora’s aware of Baxter’s past, and when she learns that she is, she leaves it at that.
Robert, Cora, Mary, and Tom look over the elevations. Mary likes the more expensive ones, because they’re prettier, whereas Tom likes the cheaper ones, figuring nobody living there will care what they look like, because most of them won’t be longtime tenants. Yeah, but other longtime residents of the area will still have to look at these places, right? Cora notices that Isis seems a little listless and immediately goes over to pet her, showing more concern for Isis than she did for Edith. Mary dismisses Isis’s distress, noticing only (of course) that the dog seems fat and wonders if she’s knocked up. Robert says that’s impossible before getting back to the subject of the plans. Mary agrees to go with the ugly, cheaper houses, then leaves for an appointment.
Thomas seeks out Baxter belowstairs, takes her into the bathroom, and shows her his needles and vials of whatever the hell he’s shooting up with, as well as a really nasty abscess at the injection site. Looks like someone forgot to sterilise. Baxter insists they go to the doctor immediately and take all this crap with them. He admits that he did something he shouldn’t have, but she knows he was the one who wrote the letter and is being the bigger person here.
Mary’s gone to some salon to get a sleek new bob. The hairdresser declares it ‘superbe’ and, as she leaves, notes that at least she can carry it off, most girls look like bald monkeys. Man, that’s harsh. And I’m not entirely sure she can carry this off. I don’t know that this is the look for her, but maybe I just need time to get used to it.
Clarkson finishes up with Thomas and informs him he’s been injecting saline that wasn’t sterilised. He guesses Thomas paid a pretty penny for this bogus treatment and Thomas admits that its’ true. He wanted to cure himself of his homosexuality. Clarkson tells him he’s just going to have to learn to live with that. On their way home, Baxter tells Thomas she thinks he’s brave for inflicting pain on himself to achieve his goal. Looks like they’re friends now.
Robert worries about Isis, who’s still down in the dumps.
Patmore, Carson, and Hughes check out the cottage and it passes muster. Patmore decides she’s going to go ahead and take it. Carson admits he envies Mrs P and asks if Hughes ever thinks about her life in retirement.
Hughes: Please, like I’ll ever retire. Who would keep all of you alive if I did?
Mary’s decided she’s going to go for a big reveal right before dinner. The party for the evening includes Atticus. Mary comes in to general ooohs and ahhhs. Rose introduces Atticus while Violet tries not to boil over at the sight of her granddaughter. Mary prompts her for her opinion and Violet says she looks like a man. Tom likes it, Robert does not outright hate it. Edith can’t really take this anymore and gets up to leave.
Mary: I suppose you disapprove.
Edith: Sorry-not-sorry, but frankly, I don’t give a shit about your hair right now. Also, it’s kind of crappy of you to choose the day after I learned the man I love is dead to trot out some new fashion as if nothing had happened.
Ok, I think she was unnecessarily lashing out here—Mary did not do this deliberately, she was just not thinking of Edith at all, which is pretty much in line with how she is with this particular sister. But I’ll give Edith leeway because she’s grieving and can’t even see her child and those two things will make anyone irrational and easily upset.
You know who won’t give Edith leeway there? Cora. Because she’s kind of an asshole. She protests that Edith’s being a bit unfair, but Edith’s just letting it all out now and adds that it’s really insensitive of everyone to plan a jolly picnic for Saturday and do they really expect her to slap on a happy face and join in?
Mary (boredly): Hopefully not as you usually spoil everything.
Oh come ON. Who would say something like that at this time? Look, I’m hard on Mary, because I think she’s a very unevenly written character, but even I think this is an unlikely moment. You’d have to be possessed of an almost sociopathic level of disregard for another person to respond in that manner. Mary has been bereaved in exactly this same manner, and yet she shows no sympathy whatsoever. I don’t think Edith’s out of line calling her family out for not even giving her a few subdued days around the house—they’re planning outings and having friends over for dinner like nothing happened. Yes, Michael wasn’t a member of the family (yet) but he was pretty damn close. Mary was allowed to turn the house into a frigging mausoleum for months after Matthew died, but God forbid Edith be given an inch. And seriously, what is Mary’s problem? There is no reason for her to treat Edith so poorly. She’s behaving in exactly the same way as she did way back in series one, which took place 12 years ago. This woman is at least 30 years old now. Do you know anyone who behaves the same way towards other people at 30 as they did back in high school? If you do, you may want to rethink that relationship, because they have serious maturing to do. I think most of us, even if we were fairly nice people overall, look back at some of the ways we behaved towards other people back then and cringe. But most of us learned from those experiences and don’t act that way anymore. Edith is not a threat to her. By the standards of the day, Mary would have been seen to have ‘won’ in life. She made a good marriage to a man she loved and birthed a son who’ll inherit title and estate. She has wealth, position, and beauty. Edith is a spinster whom nobody is pursuing. She’s ‘on the shelf’. And yet Mary has to keep stomping on her. That’s disgusting. This could have been a great opportunity, story-wise, for some development of their relationship as the two found some actual common ground and Mary actually stepped up and helped Edith out with her grief a bit. But instead, she pouts and drops insults and ‘wah! You ruined my big hair reveal!’ like some spoiled toddler. God. DAMMIT.
Edith apologises to Atticus and excuses herself. Cora moans that Edith is so unhappy (and yet she STILL doesn’t get off her ass to go comfort her. For the love of God, these people care more about the DOG.) and Mary, continuing to dig straight down, snaps that Edith hasn’t seen Michael for years (and why should that matter?) and must have known he was dead, since the rest of them guessed. I…I can’t. Let’s move on. Isobel, being somewhat decent, wonders if maybe they shouldn’t go on Saturday, but Atticus way oversteps and begs them not to cancel. Mary says that she and Rose are going even if the rest aren’t, and that settles it for everyone, because why miss a party when a member of the family is dealing with grief? Robert thinks it’ll actually be good for Edith to have some time on her own to think. Dear heaven. They really all do hate her, don’t they?
Bates and Anna continue their argument at their cottage. Anna insists she isn’t trying to avoid getting pregnant, but Bates thinks she is because she thinks he’s a murderer. She bursts into tears, but Bates reassures her he had nothing to do with Greene’s death. Not that he didn’t want to do the bastard in. He thought about going to London, even bought the ticket, but he never went. And the unused (and untorn) ticket remained in his coat pocket. Until it found its way to Mary’s bedroom fire, that is. Ooops! But Anna’s happy now that she knows the truth.
Molesley comes into the servants’ hall and finds Daisy there. They talk about Sarah a bit and Daisy says that Sarah gave her confidence. Molesley offers to help out with some of her studies, since he’s pretty good with history. He once wanted to be a teacher, but the family had no money and he had to go work, so he left school at 12. Daisy suggests he take the proper tests now but he thinks it’s too late.
The next morning, Anna asks Hughes if she found a ticket in the pocket of Bates’s coat. Hughes says she did and Anna tells her that it’s proof that Bates never went to London. She assumes that Hughes threw it out and Hughes is all, ‘yeah, that’s right, I did!’
Well-dressed people admire horses at the point-to-point. The Crawleys watch from a private tent while Carson serves drinks. Gil and Blake are already there, preparing for their race. Mabel comes wandering over and greets Tony, who’s surprised to see her. He introduces her to Robert. Blake asks where she’s staying and she says she’ll have to return to London since her local friends are away. Cora, of course, immediately invites her to Downton. And here comes Mary, kitted up to ride, yet another surprise. I love her habit, by the way. Gil thinks it’s too much of a coincidence that Mabel’s there and lightly asks if she’s stalking him. She accuses him of being vain and goes to say hi to Blake. He tells her things seem to be going according to plan.
At Downton, Edith’s trying to write a letter, but she’s having trouble. Tom comes into the library and, after a little small talk, she announces she’s going away. She asks him to tell the others that her mind was made up, that she loves them, and she wasn’t crazy or hysterical or anything. He asks her to confide in him, but she doesn’t. Before she goes, she tells him he’s a fine man and asks him not to let them ‘flatten that out’ of him. She kisses him on the cheek and goes…
…right to the Drewes’, where she tells Mrs Drewe everything (finally!). Mrs Drewe refuses to believe any of this craziness, even after Edith produces the child’s birth certificate. Drewe tells his wife they have no claim over this child. Mrs Drewe shouts that they have a letter from the kid’s dying father and her husband tells her that he was the one who wrote that letter. She didn’t recognize her own husband’s handwriting? Really? She accuses him of having lied and used her shamefully. Poor woman, I feel for her, I really do. This is such an impossible situation. I knew it couldn’t hold. It was a terrible idea from the start. Edith says she’s very grateful and goes to get Marigold as Mrs Drewe sobs. She pulls herself together enough to go fetch Marigold’s favourite toy and to tell Marigold not to be scared, because Edith is her new mummy and loves her. She tearfully begs her not to forget that she loves her too. This is so awful to have to watch. The actors in this scene are killing it.
And from that, we jarringly jump right over to the point-to-point. I can’t bring myself to give a crap about anyone in this particular scene just now. Atticus tells Mary he hopes he doesn’t embarrass himself in front of Rose. Mary seems cool with this relationship and goes to mount up. Noticing Mabel already horsed up, she says she’s dying to ride astride (as Mabel is). Mabel suggests she do so, then, and Mary says she can’t while granny’s watching. Mabel drawls that Mary seems content enough at other times to keep certain rules and break others. Mary tells her not to be spiky, because she wants what Mabel wants: Gill off her hands. Mabel says that, if that’s true, Mary shouldn’t have pushed the boat out quite so much but Mary clearly isn’t ready to stop being the centre of attention quite yet.
Robert lets Sybbie look through his field glasses as the riders line up. Isobel thinks Mary’s splendid, for some reason, and says that young people should do crazy things. Violet asks what answer Isobel gave Merton and, upon hearing that Isobel wants everyone gathered together before she says it, guesses that Isobel’s said yes. Yay! Isobel says she thinks this is the last chance for an adventure before she dies. Violet promises there’ll be no more arguments from her, now she’s officially accepted.
The riders line up and take off for the shortest point-to-point ever. Atticus does not fall. Mary overtakes Blake and is the first woman across the line. The race ends. Gill compliments Mabel’s ride. They rejoin the Crawleys and Atticus introduces his parents to everyone. His mother invites them all to dinner, but Cora counter-invites them to Downton the following evening.
Violet watches from a distance and guesses that the meet-the-parents thing indicates that things are more advanced between Rose and Atticus than she thought. Isobel doesn’t think it’s too big a deal that Atticus is Jewish, but that’s news to Violet, who manages not to choke on her hunt cup, though she does sigh, ‘there’s always something, isn’t there?’
The family returns home and finds out from Tom that Edith’s scarpered. They can’t imagine why, after years of either benign neglect or outright emotional abuse their second daughter would have finally said, ‘fuck this,’ and gone off on her own. And they make absolutely no effort whatsoever to find out where she’s gone. What the everliving hell? If you got home from your jolly picnic and found out that your grieving daughter had suddenly taken off, wouldn’t you try to find out where she went? Wouldn’t you be at least a little concerned? She could be throwing herself in a river for all you know. And it wouldn’t even take that much effort—trust me, the stationmaster in a small town like Downton would know who Edith was. He’d remember selling her a train ticket and seeing her get on a train. He’d also probably notice that she had a child with her, which would raise some alarm bells.
Only Violet tries to get to the bottom of this, asking the chauffeur to take her to Yew Tree Farm. There, she finds out from the subdued Drewes that Edith took the kid and left. Drewe promises he and his wife won’t breathe a word. He also doesn’t know where Edith went. Violet thanks them and leaves. And apparently doesn’t think to go to the station and ask there where Edith went.
Carson tells Hughes that Edith’s taken off. Hughes is all, ‘oh, poor kid.’ Carson doesn’t seem all that concerned. Before he goes to ring the dressing gong, he hesitantly asks Hughes if she might consider investing in a property with him. ‘Investing in property together’ is the servants’ version of ‘sketching trip’ I guess. Hughes doesn’t answer, just tells him to go ring the gong already.
Edith arrives in London and is installed in a hotel room with the little girl. Edith snuggles her and suggests they celebrate with ice cream and champagne. You know, I really hope Edith makes a go of it in London. She needs to get the hell away from Downton, that place is so toxic for her. And you know what? Let’s go ahead and give her a spinoff where she becomes a 1920s single mother/career woman, learning how to run this newspaper and parent this probably bewildered little girl. Let’s have her become BFFs with Mabel Lane Fox and move into Michael’s fabulous aircraft hanger-sized home and be part of London’s amazing literary scene. I would totally watch that show.