DOWNTON ABBEY: “Episode 503”

Suddenly, everyone in Downton Abbey is the worst version of themselves. Bring in the Russkies!

Rose, Vi, and the Very Few Who Still Have Their Dignity

Ah, History; you so crazy, as Downton continues to use you as a backdrop for its many dramatic themes. Case in point: Soviet Russia, Lenin, and the exile of many who were sympathetic to the monarchy. King and Country take in immigrants from the red country, and Rose has made it her mission to clothe and support those in need. That little scamp is going to make someone a very waspy bride someday. When Rose brings some of the former countrymen to Downton, Violet recognizes an old flame – a prince who once quickened her heart. When Prince Kuragin relates that he has no idea what happened to his wife – a clear flag to let her know he is currently single and looking – Violet becomes weak in the knees. Not wanting to relate the truth of their relationship, the Dowager escapes home, but her relatives are curiously excited to learn that their matriarch has a past. Honestly, I am sort of okay with the best and most surprising storylines being reserved for my elder ladies!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Biggest B*tch of Them All

Way back in Series 1, Mary’s stuck-up precociousness and purported hatred for her middle sister was quite endearing and metered by her love for Matthew Crawley. Without that anchor, and in the face of great tragedy, Mary has relied on her old sense of entitlement to get her through her days of the Modern Woman who runs Downton. In her need to be contemporary, she has become a selfish, wicked woman who thinks of nothing but her own happiness, those who cross her be damned! Not content to have Tom as her long-distance brother-in-law and best friend, she attempts to convince him to stay at Downton, knowing leaving would be best for him.

After Tony Gillingham dumps his fiancé for her – while she is still stringing Charles Blake along – Mary is still not ready to marry him, or even let him go. When Gillingham suggests they have a torrid affair in order to make sure they are truly compatible, she convinces Anna to purchase a birth control device for her and then hide it in the Bates cottage. (Of course we know where this is going. The writers have been dropping hints for ages about a little Bates bundle of joy…imagine when Mr. Bates finds said device!) All seems to be well as the lovers hide out in a hotel, but once the deed is done, Mary is not quite ready to accept Tony’s proposal. They might not be so compatible, after all. Maybe Mary just wanted to knock some boots…shouldn’t she at least let the poor guy down? Furthermore, when Spratt discovers what he thinks is the truth of the scandalous meeting between the two, he shares it with the Dowager – who promptly lies to protect Mary, and the Grantham title.

I’m fine with Mary discovering that Tony is not quite the man she wants to spend her life with, but my problem comes with her attitude to whole situation. She is not some prize to be won, and yet, she continues to act like some award. Get off your high horse, woman! One might start to think you are beneath Lady Edith!

Speaking of she who is unspeakable, Edith continues to long for time with young Marigold, but Mrs. Drewe is a little bit over it. Her obsession with the little girl is giving the farmer’s wife pause, and she is afraid Lady Edith might run off with her daughter. Mr. Drewe meets with the middle Crawley girl and tells her that she should stay away for a while. (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT: Don’t get too comfortable with Edith’s passive depression …soon, she takes unspeakable action!)

Maybe Not a Love Story for the Ages

Cora, losing faith in the way her husband sees her, takes on the task of solidifying the patronage of the family’s della Francesca painting. It does not hurt that she is shamefully flirted with by Simon Bricker (Richard E. Grant, in what is sure to be a Golden Globe/Emmy-nominated guest performance). You can clearly see the effect Sybil had on her mother, as she is no longer able to quietly stand behind her husband at all times. When Robert refuses to accompany Cora to London on a tour of the art museum, Lady Grantham takes the opportunity to explore the streets of the capitol with Bricker. When Lord Grantham decides instead to surprise his wife, he ends up sitting for dinner alone with Aunt Rosamund, awaiting the return of his wife from her “date.” Jealous taunting ensues, natch.

Here’s the thing: the Granthams have certainly had their share of ups and downs, and marriages for convenience were very popular during this time period, but I’d like to think that these two were beyond this kind of closed-off communications. Yes, we see there is deep love there, and with that breeds doubt and jealousy; however, this storyline comes across far more as something for the parents of Mary and Edith to do. It’s not an authentic trajectory for their relationship. Mid-life crises abounded, even then, but this marriage has become one of peace and communication since Sybil’s untimely death. It boggles my mind that Cora and Robert seem to be moving backward into their old, selfish beings.

The DOWN in Downton

I think I’ve been a little hard on old Thomas. To be shamed into living a life untrue to yourself has to be a difficult lot, and after answering an advertisement to “choose your own path,” he carries a lot of secrets going into next week. Hmmm…

Mrs. Patmore is quite troubled about her nephew, who was shot during the war for being a coward. She requests that Mr. Carson pleads on his behalf to be included in the war memorial for the local village, but it is to no avail — causing a rift between the kitchen lady, Lord Grantham, and Carson himself. It is a sad slice of our history to be reminded how soldiers – who never asked to fight for someone else’s cause – were treated. Miss Bunting and her inconvenient ideals continues to tutor young Daisy, adding to the rift between Carson and, well, everyone, as he sides with Lord Grantham on all things traditional believing that the extra work Daisy is taking on is really worthless to her current trajectory in life. Boo hiss, Carson!

Baxter comes fully clean about her past to Cora, relating that it was her love for a cruel man that enticed her to steal the jewelry. Not wanting to make excuses for her actions, she still insists that the theft was her doing and her fault alone. Cora, maybe coming to recently understand men overtaking strong women, allows her lady’s maid to stay.

The Writers Were Out of Ideas, So They Just Searched the Bin for Old Storylines

Upon returning home from his raping, plundering, and assorted wickedness at Downton, Mr. Green had related to his friends at Casa de Gillingham that he was mistreated by the staff at the Abbey, especially Mr. Bates. In addition, a witness heard Mr. Green’s last words before his untimely meeting with a bus to be, “Why have you come?” Officers continue to grill the Bates’ about Green, and now the investigation seems to be heating up. Oy, vey! The Bates are either murderers or completely snake bit! The writers are desperate, I guess, and with Joanne Froggatt’s recent win, I bet they are feeling mighty vindicated.

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