Downton Abbey S5E5 – Comings and Goings

Downton S5E5 Barrow

It’s difficult to recap an episode in which so many people do so little. Overall the season has been superior to series four, but some of the stories, while more substantive, are becoming mere hanging threads waiting to be tied up at the end.  The plots seem to have beginnings and will likely have ends, but their middles are muddled in many cases.  Tellingly, the gold of this episode belongs to Mrs. Patmore, possibly because her story is a one-shot, the sort of stand-alone one-episode tale Fellowes used to tell much more often.  Patmore has come into some money and she’s looking to invest.  Out of habit, she goes to advice from the most powerful man within earshot, Mr. Carson.  Of course, Carson is clueless.  Looking for something to tell Patmore, he suggests the building firm that he heard Robert speaking well of.  But Patmore is too canny.  “Can I buy shares? Have they gone public?”  Carson is flustered.  It’s magical.  Patmore admits to Hughes that she doesn’t want his advice after all and ends up buying a cottage to rent out to tenants.  But she and Hughes succeed in placating Carson’s ego and making him think it was his idea.  A simple little story with great characterization that shows the changing times and the intelligence of the downstairs women without beating you over the head. Why Fellowes can’t give us a bit more of this and just a bit less of the overwrought serialized plotting that is often overstuffed with filler, I do not know.

The bulk of the rest of the episode is to do with Edith.  Farmer Drewe’s wife draws a line in the sand when Edith’s aunt, Lady Rosamund, comes to visit Marigold.  She won’t allow Edith to visit at all anymore.  But Violet and Rosamund want to put Marigold in school in France where Edith would at least be allowed to visit away from that troublesome farmer’s wife.  I’m not sure how Edith’s daughter living in France is better than Edith’s daughter living on the property.  Either way she’ll almost never see her daughter. I’m also curious to see how they plan on wrenching the child away from her adopted family.  But the episode closed on Edith making a mysterious phone call to London, so perhaps she’s got another idea up her sleeve.  Hopefully something new will actually happen in this plot, rather than the repeated beat that’s been monotonously banging since episode one.Downton S5E5 Bricker

At Violet’s, which is also the headquarters of Team Clarkson, the Dowager is dying to know if Isobel will marry Merton.  Isobel is mum.  Violet tries to get Clarkson to team up on stealing Isobel away, pretending philanthropic interest in Isobel not losing her sense of self.  But even Clarkson must admit that Merton is suited to Isobel.  They would do well together.  I’m still guessing Isobel will marry no one, though it’s tempting to want a titled Isobel give Violet a run for her money.

The coppers are back to question Anna.  They seem particularly interested in her, rather than her husband, perhaps imagining there was something between her and Greene.  Thus Anna is forced to say she liked Greene in a painful moment of questioning. They question Mary too and Anna tells her that “none of it makes any sense.”  She’s right.  The entire plot makes little sense.  That the cops would be so interested with so very little to go on seems absurd.  Even worse, we the audience still don’t know for sure who killed Greene or if anyone did at all.

On the fringes of the Bateses’ plot is Thomas, sniffing out an opportunity for meddling.  Thomas, even at his lowest and looking half-dead from whatever medication or drug with which he’s torturing himself, cannot resist a chance to antagonize the couple that he thinks has everything he wants.  But Thomas looks so ill that not only Mrs. Hughes but Violet notices.  When Violet, who disdains her servants having the least bit of a life to themselves, notices the bad health of an under-butler, something must be very wrong.  Baxter briefly begs Thomas to stop whatever he’s doing, but he’s a bit like a cornered, wounded animal growling and snapping.

I might’ve hoped Daisy, who’s traditionally had a slightly softer spot for Thomas, would’ve noticed his poor health. But she’s too busy studying and lamenting the departure of Sarah Bunting.  Sarah is taking a job elsewhere, which Daisy blames on Branson (she has a history of blaming unrequited love interests when people she likes leave; she did the same thing to hapless Ivy when Alfred left). Daisy begs Branson to stop Bunting.  He does meet her when she is about to go, but not to declare his love.  Bunting never understood Tom, thinking all this time that deep down he hated the Crawleys when he’s grown to love them.  He gives her a door prize kiss when she confesses she’s fallen in love with him, but he sends her on her way.  I can’t guess what becomes of Tom for the rest of the season, but I’m hoping he tags along in other stories where he’s so better suited.

Downton S5E5 Cop
Bricker, the art expert, turns out to be a disappointment in the action sequence of the episode.  He comes back to Downton just when Robert is away.  But he oversteps his bounds and steals into Cora’s room in the night.  His read on Cora is fair.  He thinks she’s overlooked and ignored by her husband and family.  But he also won’t leave when asked and doesn’t much like taking no for an answer.  The scene is a lot like Pamuk stealing into Mary’s room so long ago.  Only they are, of course, interrupted.  Robert comes home to find Bricker undressed in his wife’s bedroom.  They tussle (weakly) and Bricker goes on his way in the morning.  All would be well except that Robert has lost faith in Cora and ices her out the next day.  I am having trouble remembering the last time Robert did something right…  So much for a real infidelity story, though if Robert keeps on being such a jerk, Cora may find it harder to resist temptation.

In a more promising development (maybe), Lady Rose meets a new feller.  His name is Atticus and he likes cake.  They meet in the rain as she makes her way to the church to visit the Russian refugees.  Rose introduces him to her Russian friends because Atticus is Russian too.  But not Russian enough for Prince Kuragin’s friend, who walks off in a huff claiming Atticus isn’t a real Russian.  That’s because he’s sussed out that Atticus is Jewish.  Unfortunately, Atticus is just on his way to London to start a new job.  But I’ll be excited to see more of this charming fellow and see where a story involving Rose and a Jewish man goes, especially considering that Cora’s own father was Jewish too.