This week’s Downton Abbey centered around Robert’s “surprise” birthday party, and the arrival of yet another new character this season, Charles Blake. The love polygon downstairs took an interesting turn, and Isobel and Violet quarreled over missing knick-knacks.
Warning: Spoilers for episode 5 ahead!
Upstairs, the family is abuzz over the impending arrival of pigs, something I never thought we’d hear on Downton. But Robert’s decided to get on board with Tom and Mary’s idea to work the land, and Tamworth pigs seem to be their latest idea.
Mary is also excited by the news that Evelyn Napier has accepted her invitation to stay at Downton, along with his friend Charles Blake. Her hope that they will advise them on how to best manage Downton soon fades when, upon their arrival, Charles Blake explains that they aren’t there to help the landowners, but rather to figure out how best to use the land that is being sold off. The two take an immediate disliking to each other, as Blake feels Mary is an entitled snob, and Mary feels Blake is an enemy who doesn’t care about families like hers. I liked the dynamic between the two of them, and hope we get to see some fun sparring, which to me is when Mary is at her best.
Meanwhile, Rose plans the big surprise for Robert’s birthday–and no surprise to us, it’s Jack Ross and his band. We all knew Rose would find a way to see the charming crooner again. Ross’s arrival sends shock waves rippling through both upstairs and down. Not only is their a jazz player in their midst, but a black jazz player. Mary receives the biggest surprise of the night, finding her cousin Rose doing some serious making out with Ross downstairs in a dark room. Lest we forget, one of our first encounters with Rose last season was when she went to visit a married “friend” in London, where she stayed in his home for a few hours before heading out to a jazz club. Looks like Downton hasn’t tamed her as much as her mother had hoped.
Tom still contemplates the idea of going to America. While he admits to Isobel that he’s come to love the Crawleys, he doubts another aristocrat is going to fall in love with him, and he’s not so sure the Crawleys would welcome a middle class Irish woman into the family. As they dance to jazz in the Great Hall, Isobel points out that Downton Abbey, and the Crawleys, have the ability to change with the times, and perhaps he shouldn’t buy that ticket to America just yet. I’ve enjoyed watching the developing relationship between those two, and it feels like Isobel has taken Tom in as a sort of surrogate son.
Elsewhere, Aunt Rosamund’s prediction for Edith looks like it’s coming true. With Michael Gregson still nowhere to be found, Edith receives a note from the doctor informing her that her symptoms do indeed match those of a first trimester of pregnancy. And there goes the possibility for an exciting storyline in which Edith becomes a career woman. Instead we just get little snippets of Edith becoming increasingly worried about the whereabouts of Gregson–now with very good reason since she’s carrying his child. She’s yet to confide in anyone about the latter, though both her parents finally seem concerned enough to talk to her about what’s going on (I laughed out loud when Cora told Edith her “mother’s instinct” led her to believe something was wrong. It’s not like Edith was putting on a brave face and hiding her anguish!).
Downstairs, Alfred receives the exciting news that he has been offered a place in the cooking course at the Ritz after another student dropped out. Daisy’s heart immediately crumbles, and as expected, she blames Ivy. Ivy’s got issues of her own, though, since apparently trips to the pub and the movies equal hanky panky privileges to Jimmy. When he tells her she owes it to him, Ivy realizes what a stand-up guy Alfred was, further angering Daisy. After she cuts into her, a clueless Ivy asks Mrs. Hughes what that was about, to which Mrs. Hughes responds “Oh, I’d say it’s about the fact you had it coming.” Mrs. Hughes has seriously gotten some of the best lines this season.
Then there’s Anna and Bates, who are still struggling to move on from Anna’s assault. But “everything is shadowed” for the couple because of it, and while they decide going out to dinner and trying not to think about it for one night might do the trick, they still end up talking about it anyway. Bates feels like he should have protected her, Anna wants him to stop looking at her as a victim. And then who should show up to interrupt them but Lady Cora! She just happens to be at the same “frightful hotel” for an orphanage committee meeting dinner. But it’s a good thing she is, since the uppity maitre d’ had no wish to seat Mr. and Mrs. Bates at first, until he found out they were acquaintances of Lady Grantham. At the end of the meal, she butts into their conversation and offers them a ride home (complete with the same creepy smile she had plastered on her face every time she spoke to them). By butting into said conversation, she overhears that Anna’s been hurt somehow and Bates feels he should have protected her. She relays the information to Lady Mary, while Baxter is in the room.
And Baxter, who is being puppeteered by Thomas for still-unexplained reasons, reports the news, though she’s reluctant to do so. She likes Lady Cora, but Thomas tells her she needs to decide where her loyalties are: with him, or with her ladyship.
Next week it looks like the rumblings about Uncle Harold and some oil scandal is going to blow up and become a bigger issue. If he’s looking to Robert for financial advice, he must really be in it deep.
Now it’s your turn! What did you think of this week’s episode? And which “Mary suitor” do you like better, Lord Gillingham or Charles Blake? Is it just me, or does it seem like Fellowes has essentially taken Matthew’s personality (from season 1) and split it in half, giving Lord Gillingham the kind-hearted, sympathetic-to-Mary part, and Charles Blake the “I don’t like rich people and their ways” part?