[Caution: this recap of Downton Abbey contains spoilers!]
Overall, the past four episodes of Downton Abbey had so far been happy and giving us warm fuzzies, so I suspected something dramatic and scary was impending. We can’t go for too long without shocks in Downton Abbey, after all. This episode certainly delivered on that score, friends! Good and exciting things eased us in though, so let’s start with that.
New beginnings and romance are brewing in various corners of Downton. Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) and the happily returned brother-in-law Tom Branson (Allen Leech) take a few pleasant walks and discuss the estate, Mr. Mason’s (Paul Copley) move to Yew Tree Farm, and Mary’s newfound suitor, Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode).
First, Mary asks Tom how he now intends to move forward since he’s settled in, and he says he’s thinking of improving and running the estate repair shop, and it’s a safe guess that he’ll somehow be involved with cars alongside Henry. Tom and Mary both watch Henry test-drive a racecar during the episode, and Mary is considerably rattled at the speed of the machines. She and Henry are clearly interested in one another, but Mary seems in denial about it to a certain degree, saying she won’t marry down when Tom questions her. But he encourages her to broaden her perspective, reminiscing on how he felt his marriage to departed Sybil was a happy marriage of equals, even though they were so different in rank. Tom also reminds her that love isn’t safe, no matter whom she marries, wisely pointing out, “Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.” Mary isn’t prone to give that to just anyone, and Henry’s love for car racing may be a big hurdle for her, considering her late husband’s death by car crash. So far, flirtatious glances and conversations and a few humorous prods from Tom are the sum of it, and it’s very enjoyable.
Mr. Mason’s move to Yew Tree Farm was an important matter of business for this episode as well. Mary and Tom stop by the cottage to see how he’s settling in, and Mr. Mason’s daughter-in-law Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera), Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) the cook, and footman Andy (Michael Fox) are all there helping him. The question of who will tend to the estate pigs comes up since the former Yew Tree tenant cared for them, and though Mr. Mason’s age is initially of some concern, Andy smoothly volunteers his services for whenever he’s needed, saying he wants to learn about farming. After Mary and Tom leave, he assures the others that his interest is sincere and takes books back to the Abbey with him to study. Some coy glances and underhanded remarks make me suspect romance could be on the horizon for Andy and Daisy, and maybe even for Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore as well. But time will surely tell.
A more immediate problem for Andy comes in the books he borrowed from Mr. Mason. In frustration one night, he confesses to under-butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) that he cannot read. Unfazed, Thomas offers to teach him, thus beginning a friendship that Andy has steadily avoided until now. Andy had been afraid of giving Thomas a wrong impression since learning that Thomas is homosexual, but his fears seem to be thawing, thanks to this interaction and a few encouraging words from John and Anna Bates (Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt). Mr. and Mrs. Bates are currently still cautiously optimistic about Anna’s pregnancy, but I think it’s still probably too soon to hope fervently.
Meanwhile, Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) has hired a new female editor and is quietly enjoying her growing romance with Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), the handsome chap she met at Brancaster Castle in the previous season and who recently helped her through the all-nighter at the magazine office. Feelings have certainly ramped up – after a stroll in the park and a drink at Edith’s flat, they share a hurried and ardent kiss that seems to surprise them both. Thankfully, Edith suggests taking things slowly, though she clearly returns his interest. We all know that the secret of her daughter Marigold will have to come out eventually and there’s no telling how he will react. Incidentally, Mary now seems to be piecing together the truth about Marigold after overhearing a remark not intended for her ears. Her eyes glint as her suspicions are aroused and we can practically see her brain working overtime. Danger’s ahead, folks.
Danger was avoided and faced on many levels in this episode already though. Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) readies herself to testify against her old enemy, Peter Coyle, and she’s feeling quite nervous. Thankfully, her faithful friend Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) accompanies her and Sergeant Willis (Howard Ward) to the trial, but surprisingly, her services are rendered unnecessary. Along with Baxter, we were fully prepared to meet this scoundrel, but we hear that when he saw the list of witnesses, he pled guilty. Though anticlimactic, relief abounds.
Meanwhile, Miss Denker (Sue Johnston), lady’s maid to Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), finds herself in a more difficult pickle. In her typical loudmouth fashion, Denker berates Dr. Clarkson (David Robb) on the street one day for changing his position on the argument about the hospital. Naturally, her behavior gets back to Violet, who promptly sacks her. In desperation, Denker pleads with the butler Mr. Spratt (Jeremy Swift) to persuade the Dowager to change her mind and eventually threatens to reveal his part in sheltering his runaway nephew from the police if he won’t help her. Begrudgingly, Spratt agrees, and both of their jobs are saved. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of danger for either of these two though.
But the crowning danger and shock of this episode comes at the very end of it. Naturally, it happens during a lavish dinner party too. The Chamberlain of health attends at Violet’s finagling, as she plans to enlist his help in her position on the hospital debate. But of course, Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton), Dr. Clarkson, and Lady Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) are well prepared for a fight. Our Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), has been irritated by the whole business, not to mention suffering recent flare-ups of his ulcer that developed at the end of the last season. He’s uncomfortable and stressed before and during the dinner, and Mary, Tom, and Edith are also concerned that things will erupt into a public rift.
But the argument ends this time with more drama than anyone bargained for. Robert begins to double over in pain and try to excuse himself from the dinner, only to then start vomiting blood all over that exquisite dinner table. People are splattered, doctors spring into action, napkins go flying, and general pandemonium ensues. Dr. Clarkson says that it means his ulcer has burst, and an ambulance is summoned as Cora valiantly stays at her husband’s side, blood and all. It’s a long, anxious night for family and servants, but by the end, Robert seems stabilized after an operation. Before turning in for the night, Mary wearily tells Tom that from now on, the two of them must manage the estate alone since Robert’s stress level has to be managed carefully. Tom agrees and says tiredly, “Then long live our Queen Mary,” as he retires to his room. This sequence concludes with a somewhat eerie but prophetic and beautiful, silhouetted shot of Mary gazing into the house’s gorgeous gallery. Her responsibilities will surely increase from here, and the episode fades out with her looking into her dressing mirror, clearly also now planning how to confirm her suspicions about Marigold.
More scares and romances to come next week, let’s hope! Tune in for episode 6 of Downton Abbey at 9/8c on PBS/Masterpiece!1 of 1