'Downton Abbey' Recap: Series 5, Episode 7

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Matt Barber & Lily James are just the cutest. (Photo: (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE)
Previously, on Downton Abbey:  Edith’s boyfriend Michael Gregson is officially declared dead and everyone ignores the fact that the timeline of this show has become so wonky that he has both only been dead a year and also somehow has a two-year old daughter. Whatever! Anyway, Edith mopes and ends up basically doing a snatch and grab of her illegitimate child and fleeing to London. Bates, who super sucks, accuses Anna of trying to keep herself from getting pregnant, but it all works out in the end because he confesses that even though he totes wanted to kill Green and plotted out how he’d do it, he couldn’t go through with it in the end. Anna’s relieved. Baxter forces Thomas to see Dr. Clarkson, who tells him to stop his weird conversion therapy treatment. Mary gets a new hairdo and there’s a horse race. Yeah, kind of a lot happens. Just see last week’s recap.)

Alrighty, now that we’re all caught up – time for Episode 7. Let’s do this, folks! 

The Edith Situation. Rosamund arrives at Downton following Edith’s disappearance and she and Violet decide that they’ve got to tell Cora the truth about the whole illegitimate child sitch, because she’s going to find out anyway and they don’t want her to find out from someone else. Too bad their plan fails utterly, thanks to Mrs. Drewe, who shows up at the house to fill the Countess of Grantham in on her daughter’s extracurricular activities of her own accord. Dun dun dun…

The rest of the family, blissfully unaware of Edith’s scarlet letter status, discusses where she might have disappeared to and reassures a boatload of houseguests (including Charles Blake, Tony Gillingham and the awesome Mabel Lane Fox) that it’s okay for them to be staying with them during this highly dramatic time. Mary, ever sympathetic, doesn’t really get why everyone’s making such a big deal out of Edith leaving when she’s a grown woman, but everyone else decides that they’re just going to go with the impression that she’s gone off to stay somewhere and it’s not a big deal.

Cora is furious with Violet and Rosamund for keeping the truth of her third grandchild’s existence from her, but finally puts the pieces together about that weird trip to Switzerland that the girls took last season. She says that she’s not going to say anything to Robert, because its not her secret to tell, but insists that they must find Edith as quickly as possible. 

Rose and Atticus are Super Adorable. Atticus Aldridge and his parents, Lord and Lady Sinderby, arrive at Downton for dinner. Rose is super excited to see them, literally runs to greet them – and it’s so freaking cute I can’t stand it. I mean, Rose and Atticus are basically a Buzzfeed list about kittens given human form that like to roll around with tiny glittery toys. Rose immediately starts filling Atticus in on the Edith situation because, well, he’s not family, but she clearly wants him to be, and he’s super cute about them getting to share “their first secret”. Are there people who are capable of resisting these two? If so, I haven’t met them yet.

Anyway, at dinner, Robert chats with Lady Sinderby and promises that while some of the county might act like jerks about them being Jewish, the Granthams won’t, especially as Cora’s father was Jewish too. She points out that Atticus seems quite taken with Rose and seems just as swoony as the rest of us about their relationship – unfortunately, it would appear that Lord Sinderby isn’t quite so thrilled about his son having an interest in a girl outside the family faith. He seems to think it could make things difficult for them

Isobel’s Big News. As most of us guessed last week, Isobel has decided to marry Lord Merton because, reasons. This is a complete 180 reversal from her previous position over, oh, the entire rest of the season, so you’d think that we could possibly spend some time on how and or why she changed her mind, other than the fact that Lord Merton is nice and rich and made a really rather spectacular proposal speech a couple episodes ago. (To be fair: their relationship is sweet and generally not appalling, so this isn’t a criticism of them as a couple, per se, but rather the hamfisted way their relationship has been handled, which sadly is not a surprise on Downton these days.) She says she’s decided this is probably her last chance to have another adventure in her later life, which is quite sad, in its way, but, whatever, everyone’s really happy for Isobel and her big news. Except for Violet, of course = she, rather predictably, seems pretty depressed and sad about it. 

Mary, who is basically the Violet of her generation, immediately notices and goes to see her grandmother to try and cheer her up. Violet admits that she quite likes Isobel and that she’s gotten used to having a companion, and an actual friend to talk to. She says that despite everything she and Isobel have a lot in common and that she’s going to really miss her. Mary ribs her about being sentimental, but it’s a terribly sweet scene – and a surprising look into Violet’s life, particularly the rarely mentioned fact that she doesn’t have much to occupy her time beyond what’s going on with her family at the Abbey. And how hard that must have been for her to accept at one point in her life. 

Maggie Smith just absolutely slays this scene and, yet again, I’m more interested in Violet’s emotional state and interior life than I’ll ever be in virtually anything that Tom or a good two thirds of the Downton staff are doing at any time. She’s so awesome.  

The Hunt for Red October. Err. Edith. Whatever. Atticus is apparently not just a pretty face, as he is the one who comes up with the idea to have Gregson’s publishing company – which Edith now owns, despite the existence of Gregson’s actual wife, but whatever – help the family track her down. He says they must know where she is if she’s their boss after all.  Cora and Rosamund decide to just get on the train and go track her down, while Violet remains behind at Downton. 

Rosamund and Cora arrive at Magazine Central and immediately start badgering the front desk girl to tell them where Edith is. She actually does an admirable job of holding her ground, but then, of course, Edith herself wanders in, because she is so terrible at hiding. Edith’s mad at Rosamund for telling Cora – even though her mother admits it was Mrs. Drewe that clued her in – and insists that she’s not coming back to Downton. Cora bullies her Edith into coming with them to a teahouse to discuss the situation, and everything’s pretty much as awkward as you’d expect. 

Edith, it would seem, comes by her skills at terrible life plans honestly, as Cora’s solution to the illegitimate child problem is equally as poor as anything her daughter’s come up with thus far. She thinks Edith should just bring Marigold to live at Downton and make up some lie about the Drewes not being able to afford to keep the child or something. And then just…well, brazen it out basically once she arrives. Cora wants to tell Robert the truth, but Edith is adamant that her father can’t ever know, or neither can Mary for that matter, because she doesn’t want them treating her differently. 

Rosamund, because she has sense, thinks that this is a very stupid idea, and quite rightly points out the danger of having Marigold live up the hill from the woman who is not only upset that she had a child she loved taken away from her, but who has already come up to the house to tell the Crawley family the truth of her origins once already. Edith just insists that Mr. Drewe can just deal with his wife, which is sort of frustrating when you think about just how shoddily this woman’s been treated over this whole thing, particularly when the crux of the Crawley clan’s lie revolves around telling everyone that they’re poor and sort of incapable parents, to boot. I mean, I support Edith getting to love on her daughter and everything but her near callous disregard for what she’s put this family through is so off-putting to me. But, apparently it’s just me, so let’s go with it. 

Tom’s Existential Crisis is Still Boring. Tom tells Robert that he’s been in touch with his cousin in Boston, because he’s decided to go ahead with this whole “Move to America” plan. Tom says that he really does love the Crawley family, all of them, and it’ll be hard to leave them, but he feels America is just what’s best for him and his future. At this point they’ve done so little with Tom this season, other than remind us that he is terrible at relationships, that I’m not even sure I’d be that upset if they did ship him off to America and write him out of the show. With Sybil gone – and no plans to do anything crazy like romantically link him with Mary (thank goodness) – it’s hard to see where this character fits on the Downton canvas and he seems to just spend a lot of time standing around. So, we’ll see, I guess, but I for one am not too worked up over this storyline, which ever way it ends up going. (Just me? Would love to hear others’ thoughts on this, and on Tom’s character specifically. If he stays, what should they do with him?)

Some time later, it’s time for the weekly scene wherein we are reminded that Tom has a child. He takes Sibbie out to  a stream or creek or something and they have a father-daughter chat about moving to America. Since Sibbie is all of maybe three years old, she doesn’t have a tremendous amount of opinions on the subject, and doesn’t seem to really understand what her father’s talking about. Tom seems very nervous about his decision. They’re pretty adorable together, but all I want to do is to give Sibbie a non-bowl haircut. No child deserves to grow up with that burden.  

The World Makes Daisy Despair. Daisy gets all mopey when she learns that the Labor Government is busily falling apart and mired in scandal. She doubts they’ll last the year, and you can see that her whole obsession with social change has taken a real beating in the face of, well, the reality of politics. She feels trapped in the system and doesn’t know if there’s a point to trying to better herself anymore. She doesn’t even want to read Vanity Fair with Molesley. (Also pause while I mention that Molesley loving Vanity Fair is absolutely my new favorite character tidbit on Downton ever. He WOULD love Becky Sharp.)

Her sudden rejection of learning also depresses Molesley and he and Mrs. Patmore try and figure out how to help Daisy get her groove back. Thomas, of all people (why??), suggests they involve AWESOME Mr. Mason (that’s poor, dead William’s dad, just in case you’ve forgotten) because Daisy’s always taken his advice when it counted.  (So, I guess welcome to the rehabilitation of Thomas? Or something?

The Love Triangle That Won’t Die. Despite the fact that Mary keeps telling Tony Gillingham that she’s just not into him, he can’t seem to give up on their relationship. It’s worth mentioning that Mary’s not exactly helping the situation with her weird behavior that simultaneously seems to string him along and push him away, because Mary is a scary narcissist. Anyway, the awesome Mabel Lane Fox seems to have decided that she’s okay with Mary’s castoffs after all, because she’s openly pining after Lord Stalkingham at this point, and it’s just SO unfortunate because she is amazing and about 10000 better than this. She tells him she hasn’t given up on him and just knows they could be so happy together if he’d only let them. This makes me sad. (Can’t someone just introduce her to Tom? How cute would that be?)

Blake – whose motivations here are so very unclear at this point – spends quite a bit of time giving Tony pep talks about how he’s so much better suited to be with Mabel, and appears to be shipping them on a level that suggests he’s got a secret Tumblr blog about them somewhere. He finally comes up with the Ultimate Plan to free Mary from Gillingham, and it is basically that she should come up to London so they can loiter in the lobby of a movie theater and make out where Gillingham can see them. Yes, that’s it. That’s the entire plan, apparently. And, because everyone on this show who isn’t Mrs. Hughes is too stupid to live, this plan actually works. All it took, apparently, was Gillingham seeing Mary kiss another man – even though he also somehow knows they are faking it?? – to understand that she actually meant it when she said she wanted to break up. Ooooookay. (This storyline is the worst.) Oh, and Charles is apparently moving to Poland or something, so it’s back to the romantic drawing board for Mary, it would seem. Or we can hope, at least. 

Awesome Mr. Mason to the Rescue. Daisy, Molesley and Baxter head to Mr. Mason’s farm for a visit, a place where everything is picturesque and perfect, since he is awesome. Daisy guiltily admits that she hasn’t been down to the farm to see him enough lately and suggests that maybe she should give up spending time reading to come hang out with him instead. (Why she couldn’t just, I don’t know read on the train or the wagon or whatever is unclear, but sure. Whatever.)

Anyway, Awesome Mr. Mason proceeds to give Daisy a Mr. Selfridge level inspirational pep talk about the value of education, because learning is power and Daisy can achieve anything if she just devotes a couple of years to her studies or something. This seems…a bit overly optimistic, but okay.

Molesey backs him up and says that there are so many people – including himself – who could have really made something of their lives if they’d only had the chance to get educated. (Um, perhaps I’m slow, but I’m not entirely sure why or to what end Daisy’s doing this, it’s not like she’s going to write a dissertation, but whatever. But, it also sort of doesn’t matter because Mr. Mason is basically doing the St. Crispin’s speech from Henry V about the value of knowledge and I’m pretty much just sitting here going YEAH, BOOKS ARE AWESOME and playing the Reading Rainbow theme song at this point. Shrug.) Daisy perks up pretty much immediately, and this is sort of a stupid storyline but I love Mr. Mason, so I also kind of don’t care. If Daisy really wants to change her life why doesn’t she go live with him and really learn farming? Or whatever is necessary to have Mr. Mason be on the show more. Anything that does that would be totally fine with me. 

OH NO NOT ISIS. So, because this season hasn’t had enough things to either bore or upset us in it, it turns out that there’s something wrong with Isis, the faithful family Labrador. After her listlessness last week, Robert finally decides to get the dog looked at, because she’s getting worse. And, sadly, her prognosis is not a good one, because this show seems determined to not let me have nice things at all this season.

It turns out that Isis has been diagnosed with cancer, and doesn’t seem destined to live very long. Robert is despondent, because it’s Isis, and he loves that dog probably more than his actual children. A fact which is basically proven when the news of the dog’s illness basically upstages Phase One of Edith’s plan to convince the family that it’s totally cool is she just brings a random stranger’s child to leave with them. Oh, Edith. Once he can be made to actually listen to the question, Robert says that he thinks Edith’s idea is idotic, and Mary agrees. They want to know what’s going to happen when she wants to start a family of her own in the future. Edith harasses her father some more, and honestly it’s sort of embarrassing that no one in the family has figured out that Edith has some heretofore unknown connection to this child because she’s not hiding it at all at the moment. But everyone’s distracted by Robert’s obvious dog-pain, and the nanny brings Mary and Tom’s kids in, and finally the situation is resolved with what amounts to “ask your mother about it”. Edith beams and ugh this storyline is so badly handled, I just can’t.  (Oh, and Anna also seems to have cottoned on to the fact that there’s something weird going on with Edith and the Drewes and this child, so pretty soon Robert and Mary are going to be the only people who don’t know at this rate.) 

Time for Another Awkward Dinner Party! Mary has the brilliant idea to throw a dinner party at Downton to celebrate Lord Merton and Isobel’s engagement, so that Isobel can meet his sons and everyone can party down together. Or at least Isobel can meet everyone else, and try to forget that first time she met his son Larry when he drugged Tom before dinner for fun and everyone ended up yelling.

Well, you’d think that surely there’s no place to go but up, right? LOL, psych!

Lord Merton and Isobel’s celebratory dinner goes awfully. Like, so bad that if this were 2012 someone would be looking for Ashton Kutcher because this is an episode of Punk’d terrible.  Why? Because Lord Merton’s sons are complete trash. Despite the fact that Larry ruined the last Crawley family dinner he attended, he wastes no time in insulting every other person present he didn’t get around to last time, including Rose, her adorable new BF, her adorable new BF’s religion, Edith, Isobel, Isobel’s background, and his own father. It’s a pretty epic flameout, as he not only predicts the failure of his father’s second marriage, he calls the Isobel/Matthew side of the Crawley family “odd” and says there’s no way Isobel could ever fill his mother’s shoes socially. 

Robert and Lord Merton are both shocked and appalled by Larry’s behavior, but once again it’s Tom who really blows up the evening, leaping up, swearing and basically threatening to throw Larry out. Despite some shock over his choice of language, Robert backs Tom up, and it’s pretty awesome actually. How did such a nice man like Lord Merton produce a kid like that? Larry slinks off to pout in the car, and the fallout is immediate and far-reaching. Isobel looks like she’s been punched and refuses to discuss the situation, in fact, it looks as though she’s suddenly rethinking her decision to marry Lord Merton at all. (Though, honestly, if your wedding required you to take on evil stepchildren like that, would you?)

Rose and Atticus swing the other way – in an adorable scene, Atticus says that since they already both know they’re it for each other, they might as well get engaged now and start tackling the endless stream of problems their relationship is about to face. Because Atticus is basically perfect, he even gets down on one knee in the hallway to ask her, and they’re just kittens and puppies and rainbows and perfect. I adore them.

But, despite that one bit of happiness, well, there’s a lot hanging over the family: Isis is dying, Edith is taking in her illegitimate daughter under false pretenses, Isobel looks miserable, Mary’s apparently single again and Tom may or may not be moving to America? Yikes. That’s a lot to wrap up in two episodes, which is how long we’ve got to go. 

Thoughts? Hit the comments. Let’s dish.