Recap: Downton Abbey, “Episode Four” (5×04)

The women of Downton Abbey have something to say and people had better start listening soon. Episode Four of Downton finds Cora, Mary, Edith, Daisy, and Mrs. Padmore all finding their voice in new ways while Miss Bunting, never one without a voice, flexes hers yet again.

The awaking of Cora Crawley continues. Despite her husband systematically ignoring her, Cora can’t help come alive with the attention of Mr. Bricker. At every turn, Robert is oblivious to the role he is playing in their flirtation. While Tom and Mary try to convince Robert to put houses up on part of the estate, Cora asks to understand the merits of the project. Robert literally, physically cuts her off from the conversation, standing in front of her with his back to her. He is hostilely dismissive of her opinions over and over again. This is not going to end well.

Mary’s finally giving up the ghost on Lord Gillingham. She goes to London to break things off in person and catches up with Charles Blake and Lane Fox – the woman Tony left for Mary – at a dress show. Mary tries to kindly break things off but Tony doesn’t take it well. He doesn’t take it at all. He can’t conceive of a world where Mary sleeps with him and then changes her mind. The look he gives Mary as he insists they leave the park makes it very clear that Mary is making the right decision.

Edith isn’t taking her separation from Marigold well. Michael’s office called and the finality of the truth of Michael’s demise will be coming any day now. Edith takes to lurking in the bushes as she tries to catch a glimpse of her child and connection to the man she loved. Mrs. Drewe has had enough and despite what rank and society might dictate, she closes the door in Edith’s face. Edith is ready to explode and this situation isn’t going to last the way it is.

Mrs. Padmore is still, understandably, devastated about her nephew. She’s lashing out in the kitchen at Daisy as she studies, crying to herself in the town square. Concerned, Robert summons her to the library to discuss it. But whereas Carson believes that cowardice excludes Archie from proper remembrance, Robert agrees with Mrs. Padmore about Archie’s sacrifice for his country. It’s always surprising when Robert is on the right side of history but this entire exchange is a beautiful representation of the struggle with the evolution of what would someday be called PTSD.

The war between Robert, Tom and Miss Bunting continues to rage. Robert, as is his habit, continuously pokes Tom to see if he’s up for a fight. And as is also his habit, looks the fool for doing it. But Miss Bunting, being again ill-advisedly invited to dinner, isn’t about to sit around. She pokes back, taunting Robert with the idea that he doesn’t know the name of his under-cook. Daisy and Mrs. Patmore are dragged upstairs during dinner.

Rose’s dad, Shrimpy, is in England. And as everyone suspects, he’s there to tell Rose and the family that he and Rose’s mother are getting a divorce. Robert can’t understand why they can’t just live apart. But as Shrimpy puts it, “If you’d ever been as unhappy as I am, you’d understand.” If Robert is not careful, that unhappiness may be down the road for him.

Despite playing coy at luncheon, Violet and Isabel go to York to visit the church where the Russian refugees are staying. They’re both shocked to see the conditions the refugees are living in but Violet is there with a purpose. She must know what happened to the princess. Prince Kuragin is glad to see her, despite the changes that have befallen him.

“Then you were the young and beautiful Countess of Grantham, turning eyes in ballrooms, or out in your carriage. Now you are the great lady, imperious, magnificent. Two sides of the same coin…

The powerful Prince Kuragin with his golden palaces and thousands of acres, that man does not exist anymore.”

It’s such a beautiful line reading and speaks volumes to a character we will never get to meet: the young Violet Crawley dancing in the Winter Palace, fanning her self as she makes a prince fall in love with her.

Prince Kuragin reports that the princess had been exiled a year prior to his release from prison. He has no way of finding her. Isabel cannot comprehend that there isn’t someone in power that could find her. She thinks the must maintain hope.

“Hope is a tease, designed to prevent us from accepting reality.”

“You only say that to sound clever.”

“I know, you should try it”

Violet is committed to finding her, though Isabel can’t understand why. It turns out Prince Kuragin asked Violet to run away with him all those years ago. Lord Grantham gave her two pictures of the children, and she saw sense. But she feels indebted to the princess for this event. Violet calls on Shrimpy to find her, and with his help, she is located in Hong Kong.

Another love story is blossoming. Lord Merton is adorably trying to get up the courage to knock on Isabel’s door. It’s clear to everyone why he’s there, though Isabel instantly tries to dissuade him. “I do hope this is something you won’t regret…” followed by “Very well, I’m listening.” is really not the response a man hopes when he begins a proposal. But what a proposal! Heartfelt and full of love, Lord Merton asks only that Isabel consider his proposal for some time, which she promises to do, despite still having not used his first name.

Odds & Ends

– Thomas seems to have gotten himself into a good deal of trouble. From what I can piece together, it looks likely that he’s trying to “cure himself” and it’s not going well.

– Seeing Bates smile at Anna lovingly makes it all the more annoying that they’ve run into the law again. I understand that we can’t keep our couples happy since it rarely lends itself to compelling TV, but goodness do I find this business with Mr. Greene annoying.

– Robert actually has a good idea about land development. Will wonders never cease.

– “I won’t take sides, it’s true. But I don’t think I could ever be described as neutral.”