New Show Recap: Downton Abbey, Episode 5×01

Downton Abbey is back for its fifth season, and Sunday night’s episode started everything off with a bang. It’s 1924, and a new prime minister, who is affiliated with the Labour Party, has been elected, and change seems to be the only constant as life progresses onward after the Great War. But the drama and angst are still there, as is Lady Violet’s singular talent for sharp one-liners. But the times, oh, they are a-changing, as the hiring pool for servants keeps getting smaller and smaller and the aristocracy witnesses its power beginning to wane. Lord Grantham isn’t happy about it, but Tom Branson is, and that’s going to lead to a lot of conflict later on. And holy Jane Austen references, Batman!

So where to start? Well, let’s start upstairs. Edith has brought her daughter to England and one of the local farmers is raising her. Tim (the farmer) knows the truth behind Edith visiting the little girl, whom Edith named Marigold (WHUT!!). He has come up with a good cover story for Edith visiting and fawning over the child: his wife thinks Edith has a crush on him, and he’s playing along. Okay, then, that still makes things really awkward. Edith also finds a German primer left behind by her supposedly dead babydaddy, and starts crying when she opens it and sees his name there.

Isobel has an admirer in Lord Meryton, and while he’s ready to get serious, she’s a little skittish at the thought of getting married again. Yeah, he’s nice and everything, but he’s a lord, and Isobel likes being all middle-class social activist. She confides all of this to Violet, who pretends to be thrilled for her, but who is secretly a little miffed at the possibility that she won’t be Queen Bee anymore. Yikes! But she still wants Isobel to be happy, so she arranges to have a friend of hers flirt with the doctor who really likes her at an upcoming local charity lunch to spark Isobel’s jealousy and light a fire under her butt. Lady Shackleton is all for it, because “all men of good fortune are in want of a wife.” And did any of you recognize her? She was the same actress who played Fanny — the horrible sister-in-law — in the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility.

Okay, so Branson is still carrying a torch for the fiery socialist teacher, Miss Bunting, who is very enthusiastic about her support for the new Labour government. She reminds Branson that he should be, too. She also turns out to be kind of a snot later.

And downstairs? Sooo much tension between Carson and Mrs. Hughes you could cut it with a knife and serve it for tea, since they love each other but pretend not to. Carson has been asked to be on the local board for the World War I memorial, and Robert was overlooked. Carson is unsure what to make of that, but ya know, life goes on, brah. Moseley uses shoe polish to darken his hair and ends up looking like a Jazz Age Ricky Ricardo. Daisy is taking math classes through a correspondence course since she sucked at it royally as a kid. She wants to better her math skills so she can get a better job. Right on, Daisy! Anna and Bates still want to make me throw up. They marvel at how strong their union is, despite all they’ve been through and despite the fact that Bates is on his way to becoming a serial killer.

Mary is really throwing herself into this whole running the manor thing. She has read up on all of the new things they might be able to do, and Branson is very supportive of her ideas. Can I just say that I like the brother-sister relationship between these two?

Mary is also feeling lukewarm about Lord Gilliam, who is so into her and who wants to marry her. Mary is a little sick of the old-school approach to courtship and marriage and wants to try the car before she buys it, so to speak, since other women are doing it. Does she know Miss Fisher?

Rose does something not too bright and invites Miss Bunting to the dinner that Robert and Cora are giving for their thirty-fourth anniversary. Sadly, Edith Wharton couldn’t come and reveal which of The Buccaneers was modeled after Cora. Way to stir shit up, Rose!

Thomas is as scheming as ever. He knows that the new lady’s maid, Jenny, has a horrible secret, and he is using Jenny to spy on Bates and Anna (don’t ask me why!). Jenny is sick of Thomas’s shit and spills the beans to Cora before Thomas can. Jenny spent time in prison because she stole jewelry from her employer and hocked it. Cora is pissed that Thomas recommended Jenny even though he knew she had a criminal record.

The party is a hotbed of drama. James’s old mistress, Lady Astrid — played by the actress who was Caroline in BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice — still thinks he’s hot, and it turns out that she was traveling and — surprise! — pops in to stay at Downton Abbey. So we have a party crasher, we have Miss Bunting, who is rude to all of the wealthy dinner guests and tries to talk politics, which starts a bit of an argument between Branson, Isobel, and Robert until Lady Violet intercedes to calm things down.

Later that night, Lady Astrid and James rendezvous — and of course James was stupid enough to confide in Thomas, who of course uses this to his advantage. At the same time, Edith is in her room crying over pictures of Babydaddy and the baby and must have decided to do a reenactment of Ring of the Niebelungs and play a sleeping, cursed Brunhild, because she starts a fire. Thomas discovers it and lets everyone know. He saves Edith and helps everyone to evacuate. But guess who they find in bed together: Lady Astrid and James. Uh-oh. But don’t worry, the fire department arrives and the house is saved. I think the Crawleys have insurance. If not, they should have called Allstate.

So, resolution. Lady Astrid GTFOs, James is dismissed with good references to avoid scandal, and Thomas has landed after saving Edith and alerting everyone about the fire and is once again in Cora’s good graces. Carson talks to the local memorial board and requests that Robert be elected patron of the committee. Mary sees Lord Gilliam again, and he insists that they get to know one another in every way imaginable. Tim the farmer approaches Edith with a solution for Marigold and says that she should act as the child’s godmother so people will ask less questions about how involved she is with the child.

As you can see, Twitter was on fire Sunday night. There are so many people who are into this show, and if you watch the Downton-related hashtags, there are people who are familiar with the era and who post links explaining what is going on at the time so everyone is able to understand. Very nice if you’re not as familiar with what’s going on historically as the story unfolds.

And that’s all for this week, folks! And we’re just getting started with the season!


5 thoughts on “New Show Recap: Downton Abbey, Episode 5×01”

  1. I’ve always loved Edith. She’s got classic middle child syndrome and now she’s had a freaking baby and is clearly depressed and nobody has noticed. She literally started a fire with her sadness and everybody was like, “Great job for saving us all, Thomas!”

    Which brings me to my next point: Why do we keep giving Thomas free passes? At some point, someone has to go, “Um…so this guy is…not…great, right?”

    Point Three: I am also Team Mary just skipping marriage, traveling the world and enjoying the “company of many.” Though since she’s a widow (and it’s the 1920s) I was under the impression that she would have a little more freedom than this? Maybe I am having a historical inaccuracy problem.

    1. I think Mary’s issue is that she feels that she still has to live up to a certain role as the oldest daughter and mother to the Crawley heir. There has been so much pressure put on Mary since season 1. She was supposed to marry one heir, but he died on the Titanic, so she’s expected to marry this next heir to keep the fortune in the family, regardless of how she feels about it. I think after the Mr. Pamuk incident she tried to keep her behavior above reproach, so she has had all this pressure on her to be perfect and do what she is supposed to do. And she is doing it, but she’s not very happy, as we see.

      Edith is the one who really has gotten the short end of the stick. I know they’re probably trying to lead up to a beguiling storyline that deals with some of the events in Germany that hailed World War II, but they’re really sucking at it.

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