Recap: Downton Abbey, “Episode One” (5×01)

Welcome back to Downton Abbey everyone! It’s been a long year without our upstairs and downstairs friends. This season is primed to be full of change. As Carson says, ““I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on – that everything I believe in will be tested and held up for ridicule over the next few years.” Let’s do this!

The episode opens on Lady Edith riding her bicycle down to the village on a grey morning. Few television characters have been kicked in the teeth as much as Lady Edith Crawley. Jilted at the altar, pre-widowed by her lover while he tried to earn a divorce from his insane wife, Edith starts this season visiting the child she abandoned, recovered from Switzerland, and then abandoned again to a family in the village. Watching Edith with Marigold is heartbreaking both because her longing is so palpable and because it is clear that if Edith ever has any hope of happiness, it lays with this little girl.

Mrs. Drew is clearly suspicious of Edith and her motives in seeing so much of Marigold, though she can’t put her finger on exactly why. Mr. Drew, protective of the situation and of Edith, explains that they need to find a new way to handle this all and then allows slip that he knows Marigold is her daughter. Together, they’ll think of something.

Robert is grumbling about the new Labour government. Really, Robert spends most of this episode grumbling. Grumbling about changes in the government, grumbling about Tom’s friend Miss Bunting (she really does not try to ingratiate herself with anyone), grumbling about the memorial committee not wanting him to join. Times are changing and Robert doesn’t like it.

One of my most favorite pairings on Downton Abbey is that of Violet and Isobel. The Dowager Countess gets all of the best dialogue (see below) and their relationship is clearly one of love and mutual need for each other. Isobel doesn’t like the idea of Violet and Lord Merton getting together, either because she’s jealous of her potential rank, doesn’t want to lose her best friend, or simply enjoys meddling. And boy howdy does she meddle. A planned luncheon begged for by Lord Merton to spend time with Isobel leads to the potential pairing of Lord Merton with a better aligned mate and Violet’s aggressive pushing of Doctor Clarkson and Isobel together.

Baxter is in trouble. Thomas is pushing her to reveal what she knows about Bates and threatening to reveal her secret. Molsley has her back though and encourages her to be strong and not bow to Thomas’s bullying. In the end, he convinces her to tell Cora herself so that Thomas can’t have the upper hand anymore. Molsley’s infatuation with Baxter is earnest, heartfelt and beautiful. It brings the absolute best out of a bit of a stick-in-the-mud character. “I’m not asking what you said but I want to be sure you held nothing back.” If you look up honorable and adorable in the dictionary… Oh, Molsley.

It seems that several years ago, Baxter worked in London as a lady’s maid. She was there for 6 months when she took jewelry and tried to make it look like a burglary. She went to prison for three years. There is more to the story, which she is clearly holding back. Cora is surprised but remarkably composed. She lets Baxter stay until she makes a decision. Cora is less kind to Thomas, with whom she makes clear that her patience for his antics are at an end.

Elsewhere, Tony Gillingham is still sniffing around Mary. She’s happy to let him and does encourage him, in her way. In the end, he has an indecent proposal for her with perhaps the most direct sentence ever spoken in the country of England, “I want us to be lovers Mary. I want us to know everything there is about each other.” My goodness. It works and a plan is set.

At the very end of the episode, Lady Edith, wallowing in her loss of Gregson and Marigold thanks to a book that Mrs. Hughes found, accidentally sets fire to the house. As Mary said, “Lady Edith chose to set fire to her room but we’re all fine.” Raising the alarm, our Thomas of Perpetual Evil saves the day and ensures his job will be there for him in the morning.

Odds & Ends 

– Donk is the best grandpa name ever. I don’t care what Robert says.

– Mary intends to be as happy with her second husband as she was with her first. I couldn’t wish for more for her.

– Daisy has set herself on a path of self betterment but finds she’s really bad at math. Mrs. Patmore is not concerned, “All the best people were rubbish at numbers at school.”

– Robert is inflexible, sure, but good god Miss Bunting is grating.

– James’s employment at the Abbey seems to have come to an end thanks to an aggressive cougar of an ex-boss and an inconveniently timed fire.

– Molsley and Baxter: “How do you think I look?” “Why do you have a rash?”

Stuff the Dowager Countess Says

– “Principles are like prayers – noble, of course. But awkward at parties.”

– “There is nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like. It’s avoiding one’s friends that is the true test.”

– “I like to help where I can.” Clearly.

– “Sprat, stop being such a snob.” If Violet calls you a snob, that says something…

– “We’re being realistic, something your generation has such trouble with.”