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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 4 recap

Downton at night

Last night’s emotional episode brought out the best of what Downton Abbey has to offer in its acting and writing.  It was a tough one to watch, but the performances were brilliant and restored my faith in the series.  So, without further ado, let’s recap and review, shall we?

Warning: Major spoilers for episode 4 ahead!

The episode started out calmly enough.  Sybil’s baby is nearly due and everyone is anxiously anticipating its arrival.  Lord Robert has brought in Sir Philip, baby deliverer to the aristocracy, even though Lady Cora feels that Dr. Clarkson can appropriately handle the job.  I can’t say I blame Robert for doubting Dr. Clarkson’s abilities to some degree, given the misdiagnosis of Matthew last season (which Robert is quick to point out).  As a compromise, Cora is allowed to bring in Dr. Clarkson and both will attend Sybil during the delivery.

Mary and Sybil

Meanwhile, Sybil talks to Mary about wanting the baby to be brought up Catholic, and Mary promises she’ll fight in her corner should the need arise.  Mary mentions that she wants a family, which seems contrary to her statement to Matthew when they were in the nursery in the previous episode.  And Matthew is apparently concerned about his fertility, and brings it up with Sir Philip (though, after the way things turned out, I think I’d disregard his advice if I were him).  Matthew and Mary continue to have almost zero chemistry, and spend all of their time talking about money and the estate.

Look! They're touching!

Look! They’re touching!

Edith

Edith receives an offer to write for a newspaper.  She’s excited, but her dear Papa is quick to dismiss the news, stating that they only mean to exploit her and her title.  I saw a little glimmer of hope in Edith’s biting remark that no one supports her.  I keep hoping she’ll come around to the fact that she needs to get out on her own and make her own happiness.  Maybe this is the first step.

Anna and Bates

Elsewhere Anna and Bates are reunited in prison.  And my hunch was apparently correct–Vera put arsenic in the pie and was scrubbing her nails to get rid of the evidence.  Mrs. Bartlett’s testimony will set Bates free, but only if they can get it from her before she finds out it will prove the man she despises is innocent.  Something tells me that the unfriendly cellmate and jail warden will muddy the waters a bit and drag this storyline out even longer.

Ethel and her disastrous kidney souffle

Ethel and her disastrous kidney souffle

Just when we thought we might have seen the last of Ethel, she returns this episode as Mrs. Crawley’s new project.  She takes her on as her maid, causing the immediate resignation of Mrs. Byrd.  She’s not the only one in an uproar about this turn of events–Mr. Carson hears the news and lays down the law that no maid or footman is to go near Crawley House.  Mrs. Crawley has a good heart and she wants to give Ethel a second chance, but I wonder if she’s bitten off more than she can chew.  While I’m not the biggest Ethel fan, I’ve actually warmed up to her character a bit since last episode, so I’m interested to see where this goes.

Alfred and Ivy

Ethel’s new appointment isn’t the only thing causing a stir downstairs.  We’ve got a really complex love…polygon going on here.  Daisy likes Alfred, Alfred likes Ivy, Ivy likes Jimmy, and Jimmy likes…?  Then of course you have to throw Thomas in the mix, as he likes Jimmy also.  Which is of course working to the advantage of Mrs. O’Brien, who is throwing Jimmy at Thomas every chance she gets.  I don’t like this game she’s playing, and I feel Thomas is really going to get hurt (and after this episode, I have some sympathy for Thomas, so this bothers me even more).

Daisy and Mrs. Patmore

Daisy continues to walk around with a perpetual scowl and takes out her frustration on Ivy.  Mrs. Patmore gives her some sensible love advice (finally the meddling comes in handy!) and tells her that Alfred won’t like her any more for treating Ivy poorly.  She also opens her eyes to the fact Ivy likes Jimmy, not Alfred.

Sir Philip and Dr. Clarkson

Sir Philip and Dr. Clarkson

But all of these subplots felt like background noise when Sybil goes into labor and Dr. Clarkson expresses concern that all is not well and that Sybil may be suffering from eclampsia.  Sir Philip wholeheartedly disagrees, basically telling Dr. Clarkson to butt out and not to worry the family unnecessarily.  But as the evening progresses it becomes more apparent that Dr. Clarkson’s diagnosis may be correct, and a decision has to be made.  Follow Dr. Clarkson’s advice and Sybil will be rushed to the hospital for a c-section, which may or may not come out all right, but is the only way to prevent her from succumbing to eclampsia.  Or follow Sir Philip’s advice, who says he knows he can confidently deliver the baby safely and is still doubtful she has eclampsia.

Branson

Poor Tom, I felt so sorry for him standing there, eyes wide, as the two doctors bicker back and forth, and he has to make the decision that will impact the health of his wife and his baby.  It seems that Robert makes it for him though, stating that Sir Philip’s certainty is better than Dr. Clarkson’s speculation.

Sybil and Branson

Sir Philip successfully delivers a baby girl for Tom and Sybil, and everyone relaxes, feeling that Sybil’s out of danger.  Cora apologizes to Robert for doubting him and for siding with Dr. Clarkson.

Sybil and Cora

Sybil tells her mother about Tom’s plans to become a mechanic in Liverpool, and how she doesn’t want that for him, that they should be moving forward, not back.  She wants to know she has her mother on her side.  Cora tells her to rest and they can talk about it later.

Later that night Mary rushes into her parents’ room, telling them to come quick.  Unfortunately Dr. Clarkson’s diagnosis proves to be correct.  We all watch helplessly along with the family and the two doctors as Sybil dies from eclampsia.  Cora and Tom’s reactions are absolutely heart-breaking.  The news travels through the house, overwhelming everyone with shock and grief.  The performances here were phenomenal, from Thomas crying in the hallway and being comforted by Anna, to Carson’s look of devastation while telling Mrs. Hughes that he’s known Sybil all her life.  But the most heart-wrenching of all was Cora’s.  She promises Sybil that she won’t let anything happen to her baby or to Tom, that she’ll take care of them both.  And she’ll always be her baby (and that’s all I’ll say, so I don’t have to grab the tissues again).

Thomas and Anna

The day after Sybil’s death the family is still in a state of (understandable) shock.  Mary and Edith say goodbye to their sister, Edith wondering if they could ever mend their fences now that they are all the other has left as sisters go.  Mary: “Probably not.”  Well, probably true, but ouch.  I suppose we can’t expect Mary to put her bluntness aside, even at the death of her dear sister.

Mr. Murray comes to see Anna about her new information related to Bates’s case (I know he was scheduled to come then–but at this point I was so emotional over what happened to Sybil I didn’t care about this subplot and just wanted to see how the family was coping).  While there, Matthew, in a rather un-Matthew-like move, pulls Mr. Murray aside to talk about the mismanagement of the estate.  This felt so out of place to me–and I can’t say I blame Mary for being angry when she walks in to find her husband and her father’s lawyer talking business the day after her sister’s death.  It was insensitive of Matthew, and seems out of character for him.

Matthew and Mr. Murray

Mary walks in on Matthew’s meeting with Mr. Murray

We get a fresh wave of tears when Lady Violet enters the house (and another fabulous performance by Maggie Smith).  Cora relates that she plans to write Dr. Clarkson a letter of apology for their behavior, that they should have listened to him instead of Sir Philip, and if they had Sybil might still be alive.  This was directed at her husband, of course, who at least has the decency to admit that he was not entirely without fault in what played out.

Cora

A determined Cora

I was sorry the show lost the character of Sybil.  While her role has been fairly flat this season, in the previous ones she was so likable, so full of life and spunk, and she really helped to balance out her other two sisters.  With her gone, the whole family dynamic is going to change.

It seems the clash between traditionalism and modern thinking, an undercurrent throughout the season, finally burst to the surface with the death of Lady Sybil.  Robert calls in a knighted doctor to handle Sybil’s delivery because that’s what aristocrats do.  He has unwavering belief in Sir Philip’s abilities.  Cora calls in Dr. Clarkson, who may not be knighted, but who knows her girls.  She believes in his medical knowledge and that he knows what’s best for Sybil.  When the crisis occurs, Robert chooses the traditionalist path, and Lady Sybil becomes a victim as a result.  Of course, we know there’s a chance she may not have made it through the c-section, but Robert wouldn’t even entertain the idea.  He’s clinging to what few certainties he feels are left in the world.  And he’s just had his eyes opened through the death of his youngest daughter.  And I have a feeling, or at least I have a hope, that Cora won’t continue to sit idly by and let her husband run the show.  It’s time for change to come to Downton.

What an episode!  It certainly made up for the somewhat lackluster start of the season.  What did you all think?

Missed an episode?  Read my episode 1, episode 2, and episode 3 recaps.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 3 recap

There were an awful lot of new plot lines jammed into this episode (in classic Julian Fellowes style, we flitted from one character’s story to the next, hardly giving us enough time to digest what just happened), and while there were no major shocker moments like last week, it looks like the groundwork has been laid for some escalating conflicts that are sure to come in the remaining episodes.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 3 ahead!

Upstairs revolved around two main stories: Tom and Sybil’s escape from Dublin, and Matthew’s increasing involvement in the running of the estate.  The former was the big drama for the night, the latter looks like it will create quite a bit in future episodes.

Branson

Tom shows up on Downton’s doorstep (on a dark and stormy night, of course), on the run from the law after his involvement in burning down an Anglo-Irish estate.  He and Sybil had a plan in place in which they would leave Ireland separately should something like this happen, but that doesn’t save Tom from getting an earful from the Crawley clan.  I can’t say it was undeserved, leaving a pregnant woman in a very volatile situation to fend for herself.  But, fortunately Sybil arrives safely, much to Tom and the family’s relief.  And Tom’s name is cleared with the authorities thanks to Papa, as long as he doesn’t return to Ireland.  It’s understandable that Tom is crushed by this; after all, Irish independence is his passion and to be kept away is a cruel punishment for him. But Sybil becomes the voice of reason, telling her husband the baby’s safety is what’s important, and so at Downton they will stay.  Side note: I wish we could have heard a bit more about Sybil’s experience in Ireland here, and how she feels about Tom burning down an aristocrat’s home, given that she was raised as one herself.

Tom and Sybil

Matthew

Matthew realizing his father-in-law is not the best business manager.

Elsewhere upstairs, Mary encourages Matthew to take a greater role in the estate, now that he’s invested in it.  She’s probably going to regret her prodding.  Matthew uncovers a lot of waste when looking over the accounts, which is not a big surprise given Lord Robert’s penchant for business management (need we be reminded of episode 1’s Canadian railway disaster?).  Matthew brings up the bookkeeping to Mary, who reluctantly tells him to talk to her father about it.  But Papa quickly brushes him off.  When Downton was so quickly saved thanks to Reggie Swire’s money I wondered where else we could go regarding story lines with the estate.  Now I know.  There’s going to be a showdown between Matthew and Robert, and maybe Matthew and Mary.  Change is certainly not their strong suit.

Mary and Matthew

A few other minor things upstairs: an interesting little scene between Matthew and Mary in the former day nursery.  Matthew apparently is looking to start a family, Mary not so much.  Seriously, can we please have a few scenes in which Mary doesn’t seem like an ice queen towards her husband?  It’s like first season Mary all over again.  What happened to dewy eyed love struck second season Mary?  Bring her back!

Edith

And then we’ve got Edith.  Poor Edith who seems a bit lost since her jilt at the altar.  But this episode gave me some hope that she’ll soon be finding her voice.  Her dear Papa is shocked when the newspaper actually prints an article she wrote about the women’s vote.  And Edith is not just becoming more vocal about suffrage, but also about the way her family perceives her.  I want to see Edith gain a little backbone when it comes to her family and the way they treat her.  And maybe move somewhere where she’ll be more appreciated, where she isn’t the overlooked middle child.  Go Edith!

Carson and the toaster

“What in God’s name is it?”

There was a lot of exciting new plot developments downstairs, and I’m not just talking about Carson waging war against a toaster.  Now that Matthew’s money has saved Downton from financial collapse, new staff members can finally be hired (even if Matthew seems reluctant about it…but Robert easily overlooks this), allowing Daisy to get her at-long-last promotion in the kitchen, and Anna to officially become lady’s maid to Lady Mary.

Daisy

Poor Daisy, can this kid ever catch a break?  She’s got her eye on Alfred, and she even goes to visit her father-in-law for a heart to heart about being interested in someone else.  And wouldn’t you know, every single time she’s about to say something to Alfred, Mrs. Patmore interrupts.  Does this woman have some sort of sixth sense for interfering in Daisy’s love life?  I had hoped we’d be rid of Daisy’s scowl and foul moods once she got promoted, but just as she’s about to tell Alfred how she feels, Mrs. Patmore comes in with Ivy, the new kitchen maid, who immediately catches Alfred’s attention.  So Daisy’s promotion came with a simultaneous jilt in the romance department.  I don’t expect that scowl to disappear anytime soon.

Anna

This week’s edition of the “Anna & Bates saga” was a little more interesting.  All communication was cut off between the two for the majority of the episode, causing some temporary anguish as Bates feels Anna has given up on him, and Anna worries that Bates wants her to move on and forget about him.  But thanks to a helpful fellow prisoner and a set up of Bates’s cellmate, his good favor is restored in the prison, and a backlog of letters finally gets delivered to them both.  It was nice to see at least one happy couple in this episode.Bates Anna with letter

Jimmy Kent

The new addition downstairs that causes the biggest stir is handsome footman Jimmy Kent.  His arrival turns all the maids’ heads, gives Mrs. Hughes pause (did anyone else notice her look him up and down?), and catches the attention of Thomas.  That attention does not go unnoticed by O’Brien, and I could see the cogs of evil working in her head.  I have a feeling she’s figured out what her next move is going to be, and I fear it is going to be exceedingly low.  Because now she not only needs to get back at Thomas, but she has to keep this headstrong new footman from taking away Alfred’s chances for advancement.

O'Brien

O’Brien forming a new scheme

Ethel

Finally, we have Ethel, who is still hanging around.  I actually felt some sympathy for her this week when she made the extremely difficult decision to give up her darling boy Charlie to his paternal grandparents.  I thought that might be the end of her story.  But now it appears that in next week’s episode Cousin Isobel is indeed going to make her her new project, and hire her on as a maid in her house.  Good luck with that, Isobel, we know how well that went last time.

I’ll be interested to see how all of these new developments play out in the remaining episodes.

All right, your turn!  What did you think of episode 3?

Missed an episode?  Read my episode 1 and episode 2 recaps.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 1 recap

Well, it’s been a long year of anticipation, Downtonites, but boy did it pay off!  The premiere of the third season of Downton Abbey was well worth the wait.  If the first episode is any indication of the focus of this season, we’re in for a more “estate-centered” story that puts priority on the people living and working at Downton Abbey, as well as on the house itself, something I felt we got away from in season 2.  Not that I disliked the second season, it just felt all over the place at times and I’m glad to see we’re getting back to a central focus.  Now, onto the episode recap.

Warning: Episode 1 spoilers ahead!

Last night’s episode had Fellowes’s fast-paced story-telling style going at full speed, with plots piling up one after another.  There was a lot going on, so I am going to hit the highlights.

Upstairs it was all about wedding bells and money woes.  Finally (finally!) Matthew and Lady Mary are about to tie the knot, and it is so nice to see the two of them as a couple, swapping flirtations.  And Mary smiling!  Such a nice change from last season.  Of course, their impending nuptials are overshadowed by the fact that Lord Grantham, who apparently does not understand what “diversify” means, has lost the “lion’s share” of Lady Cora’s fortune in a really bad business deal.  I like how Lady Cora points out that what he did was stupid, but stands by her man.  Further proof that the woman is a saint.

Robert & Cora

The money troubles put a damper on the wedding, especially when Mary wants Matthew to use the potential money he’s inherited from Lavinia’s father to save Downton.  But Matthew, being the morally upright man that he is, just can’t bring himself to use money that reminds him of his betrayal to Lavinia.  Thus we have THE argument that leads to Mary storming off and possibly calling off the wedding.  Good thing Anna is there to remind Mary that good men aren’t like buses (“there won’t be another one along in ten minutes’ time”), and Branson, er, Tom, points out to Matthew that he’ll never be happy with anyone else.  So they kiss and make up.  I like how the two (well, mostly Matthew) realize that there are going to be some bumps in the road in their marriage, but they are just going to have to work through them because they love each other and want to be together.  We already knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing for them, but at least the characters acknowledge it as well.

After making all that fuss about it being bad luck to see each other, why did traditionalist Mary open her eyes?

After making all that fuss about it being bad luck to see each other the night before the wedding, why did traditionalist Mary open her eyes?

One of my favorite portions of the upstairs drama was the interaction between the rest of the family with Sybil and Tom.  The two have obviously been living “a very different sort of life” and they both feel a bit out of place at the dinner table (of course, the constant questioning isn’t exactly helpful).  The scene in which Tom basically gets “roofied” by Sybil’s old suitor and Matthew steps up and asks him to become his best man was one of the best of the night.  The future earl is welcoming him into the family (after all, they’ve got to take on the “Crawley girls” together), setting the example for the others to follow. (Side note: I wonder if Mary would be quite as willing to welcome Tom into the family if he had married Edith instead of Sybil?  I didn’t think s0.)

Tom & Matthew

Matthew saves the day

Of course, we also have the introduction of Martha Levinson, Lady Cora’s mother, who travels from the States for the wedding.  She was a breath of fresh air, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by her presence.  It was a bit predictable, and so much hype surrounded Shirley MacLaine’s performance that my expectations were pretty high.  Still, the scene where she serenades Lady Violet was pretty classic.

The wedding goes off without a hitch.  Well, I assume it did, given we didn’t see the actual ceremony (which I was okay with–it was enough to have that little exchange between Matthew and Mary at the front of the church), and we cut straight to Mary and Matthew returning from the honeymoon (which again, we didn’t get to see–I would have liked a “first night together” scene, just because I’d like to know if Mary was afraid for her new husband’s life, given what happened the last time she took a man to bed–or if perhaps Matthew teased her about it.  But something tells me the Pamuk scandal is a sensitive subject).

Mary & Matthew in bed

Oh good. I’m glad to see you’re still alive.

In other upstairs news, we’ve got Edith flinging herself at Sir Anthony Strallan again.  I want Edith to be happy and I’m all for her take charge attitude, but she just comes off as a little bit desperate to me.  Does she really love Sir Anthony, or is he her “only hope” in her mind, given that so many British men were killed during the war?  By the end of the episode, despite her father and grandmother’s attempted intervention, it seems that Edith has secured her man.

Edith & Sir Anthony

While all the family drama and money issues are taking place upstairs, we’ve got health scares, workwoman’s strikes, and a new footman downstairs.  O’Brien manages to get her nephew Alfred Nugent a position as footman, and soon sets her sights on getting him promoted to Matthew’s valet.  For once I actually felt sorry Thomas, who worked for years to earn such a promotion.  I don’t blame him for disliking Alfred.  He’s not only being groomed for a position Thomas doesn’t feel he’s qualified for (rightfully so), but he’s put a wedge between Thomas and O’Brien, his only “friend” downstairs.  So naturally, Thomas and O’Brien turn on each other, and something tells me it’s going to get a bit nastier than coat-tail torching and shirt-stealing.  Each knows the other’s weaknesses and they’re going to use them to their advantage.

Thomas isn't about to help O'Brien's nephew learn the ropes.

Thomas isn’t about to help O’Brien’s nephew learn the ropes.

Elsewhere we’ve got Daisy, who STILL, three seasons later (that’s 8 years in Downton time) hasn’t learned to ignore Thomas.  She goes on strike, much to Mrs. Patmore’s amusement, and Mrs. Patmore, treating Daisy like the child she is being, ignores her until she finally comes around.  Most pointless and ineffective strike ever.

Daisy's protest of 1920.

Daisy’s protest

One of the more intriguing plot-lines was Mrs. Hughes’s cancer scare.  Given her status downstairs, the only person she has to turn to is Mrs. Patmore, whose bedside manner leaves something to be desired (but also led to some of the funnier downstairs scenes of the night).  How frightening it must be for a woman in a position such as Mrs. Hughes, who has no family to turn to in the event her health does decline.  How long can she stay on as Downton Abbey’s housekeeper?  And how long until she lets poor Mr. Carson know?

Mrs. Patmore & Mrs. Hughes

“If you must pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker.”

Finally we have Anna and Bates.  Their storyline feels so out of place to me this season.  Everything else is revolving around the house, and here we have Bates stuck in prison, with his wife playing detective and trying to find the piece of evidence that will finally set him free.  I’m still interested, yes, but it does feel a bit out in left field to me.  Good to know that Anna bought a garter while in France, though.

Bates contemplating Anna's wardrobe addition.

Bates contemplating Anna’s wardrobe addition.

So, looks like we’ve got quite a few questions raised in the first episode to keep us tuning in.  Will the Crawleys be downsizing from Downton?  How tumultuous will Mary and Matthew’s marriage be?  What will Matthew do with his unwanted inheritance?  Will Edith and Sir Anthony marry?  When do we get to see more of Sybil and Tom (they left so soon!)?  Will Anna ever exonerate Mr. Bates?  How out of control will O’Brien and Thomas’s one-up-manship become?  What will happen to Mrs. Hughes?  So many questions, so much more Downton  to come that will hopefully answer them!

What did you think of last night’s episode?  And for those of you who have seen spoilers, please don’t mention them here!

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First ten minutes of Downton!

Mary and Matthew discuss their future home.

Mary and Matthew discuss their future home.

So PBS & Masterpiece gave a wonderful late Christmas present yesterday by presenting the first ten minutes of Downton Abbey season 3.  It had some trouble loading for a lot of people, but I’ve had better luck getting it off the PBS Facebook page than Masterpiece’s.  Here’s the link: Downton Abbey Season 3 Sneak Peek

Warning: spoilers ahead if you don’t want to watch the first ten minutes and be completely surprised when the season premieres Jan. 6.

Anna gives Bates a list of names she found while cleaning out his and Vera's apartment.

Anna gives Bates a list of names she found while cleaning out his and Vera’s apartment.

The first ten minutes are chock full of drama both upstairs and down, and if it’s any indication as to how season 3 is going to go, it seems very promising.  The focus appears to return to the house and the people who live in it and the people who help run it.  We’ve got a debate about lending Lady Sybil and Branson money to attend Lady Mary’s wedding, something Lord Robert staunchly protests (unlike other family members, he feels town gossip will be less if they stay away).  We’ve got Lady Mary and Matthew debating where to live after the honeymoon (with talk of taking Mary to bed, oh my! Scandalous).  We’ve got Lord Robert losing Lady Cora’s fortune in a very bad deal with a Canadian railway (apparently he was never taught to diversify his portfolio), thus threatening the entire future of the estate.  We’ve got O’Brien bypassing Carson and using her influence over her ladyship to bring on her nephew as a new footman.  And we’ve got Anna discovering some new evidence that might help clear her husband’s good name.  All in the first ten minutes!  A fantastic set up to the conflicts that will play out in the third season.

Carson, upset O'Brien bypassed him to get her nephew hired as footman, declares Alfred is too tall for the position.

Carson, upset O’Brien bypassed him to get her nephew hired as footman, declares Alfred is too tall for the position.

Has anyone else watched the preview?  What do you think?  Are we in for a great season of Downton?

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Downton Abbey Season 2, ep. 5 recap

All was doom and gloom in the fifth episode of Downton Abbey as the war draws to a close.  After last week’s focus on the horrible repercussions of fighting on the front, this week the drama generated within the household as a mysterious stranger arrived claiming to have some pretty serious ties to the family.

Warning: Spoilers galore ahead

While Lady Edith has stayed mostly in the background the last several episodes, she finally had a large part in a plot this week.  Officer Patrick Gordon, whose face is disfigured from terrible burns, arrives at Downton and poses as long-lost cousin and heir Patrick Crawley (the one who was supposed to have gone down with the Titanic and thus created the central plot of the first series, when new heir Matthew Crawley comes into the lives of the inhabitants of Downton).  Only Edith buys into Patrick-if-that’s-even-your-real-name Gordon’s story.  Maybe because it’s her unexpected chance at becoming the future mistress of Downton (at last winning a victory over Mary), or perhaps because she genuinely wants to believe the man she once loved has returned from the dead.  But Patrick makes a hasty retreat when information is learned about a “Peter Gordon” who was good friends with Patrick Crawley.  And with him goes Edith’s little glimmer of hope.

Edith reflecting on the house that will never be hers

Regardless of whether or not he believes Patrick’s story, Matthew wishes the family would entertain it as a valid possibility, as in his mind he is no longer a suitable heir for Downton.   I’ve read many reviews that feel the character goes a bit overboard on the self-pitying, but really, can you blame Matthew?  Yes, he’s still alive, but his entire life has changed, and he does not want to subject anyone to a life of looking after him.  He does perk up a bit when Mary is around, and we are treated to a few scenes with the two of them alone together.  Richard Carlisle has a right to be concerned.

Cora grows concerned that Mary’s time with Matthew will dash her chances at a good marriage to Richard.  In a rather un-Cora-like move she contacts Lavinia and convinces her to grow a spine and come back to Downton to care for Matthew.  This raises the ire of Robert, and their marital strife deepens.  Robert continues to feel neglected, and is slipping ever closer to a scandal with new maid Jane.

We also find Cora in cahoots with her mother-in-law this episode, as the two manipulate Isobel Crawley into staying out of Downton Abbey’s future.  I liked this scene (as I like all the scenes when Lady Violet is at the helm), but I never believed cousin Isobel to be so gullible.

Thanks to Cora’s meddling, Mary is ousted from her position as caretaker of Matthew, something she makes the mistake of mentioning to Sir Richard.  He demonstrates just what he’s capable of during a withering exchange in which he tells Mary she has given him the power to destroy her and she best not jilt him.  Oh Mary, you’ve met your match–h0w are you going to get out of this one?

Things are no better downstairs.  As I predicted, Daisy feels nothing but guilt over marrying William, and refuses to go to meetings to learn about getting her pension as a war widow.  Carson must make the difficult decision between staying at Downton or leaving to take charge of Mary and Richard’s new estate (and since Carson would “open his veins” for Mary, we all know which he will choose).

Then there’s Bates.  His patience for his wife’s refusal to sign on the dotted line and make their divorce official is long lost.  After a trip to London where he tries to “reason with her” there’s a tell-tale mark on his face that leads one to believe that more than a calm discussion was had.  And then Mrs. Bates is found dead.  This is not looking good for Bates (or Anna, for that matter), as there’s some incriminating statements floating about that O’Brien overheard, and that were said directly to Lord Grantham (perhaps you should not tell your employer that you wish your estranged wife was “the late Mrs. Bates”).

As usual, there are the other odds and ends throughout the episode.  Lady Sybil and Branson have another short exchange and it seems that Branson’s endless lectures of sacrifice (or perhaps his partially unbuttoned shirt and rolled up sleeves) have finally convinced Sybil that he’s the man for her.  Judging from next week’s preview it looks like the news is going to break, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Thomas is scheming to sell rationed food on the black market to make some extra cash, and O’Brien is busy gathering information to bring down Bates (I know she doesn’t like the man, but why is she so dead-set on “making him pay?”).  Ethel’s last hope of being saved from a life of poverty is extinguished when the father of her child is killed in battle (I still can’t get into this particular story thread).

If there was any sort of silver lining at all in this episode (and boy was it hard to find), it was when Bates wheeled Matthew out of the great hall after the armistice was observed.  It seemed Matthew was able to feel something in his legs, which he begins to ask Bates about, but then retracts his question, saying that it didn’t matter, at least not until he felt it again.  Could it be that Matthew won’t be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after all?

Next week it looks like the Dowager Countess finally takes the Mary/Matthew matter into her own hands, and Cora becomes very ill, prompting O’Brien to perhaps confess her part in Cora’s miscarriage five years prior.  With only two episodes left, I still have no idea how these plots are going to tie themselves up, and can’t help but wonder what else will be thrown at us in the meantime.

What were your thoughts on episode 5?

Miss any other episodes?  Read my recaps here:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

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Filed under Downton Abbey, Period Pieces