Recap: Downton Abbey, “Episode Two” (5×02)

The best laid plans at Downton Abbey rarely meet a smooth end. Whether it is one of Thomas’s schemes, Mary’s latest romantic strategy or Robert’s plan to do, well, anything, things never seem to work out quite as planned.

Our Episode Two made sure of that at every turn. While most of the plans were ultimately successful – at least so far – they all hit a bump along the way.

First, the memorial committee wants to build the memorial on the cricket pitch. Robert disagrees and thinks it should be in town, but is clearly out voted. He stands his ground and Carson asks to be persuaded. When he recounts his struggle to Mrs. Hughes, Carson is upset to hear that she agrees with Robert. “I don’t like it when we’re not on the same side.” “We’re different people, Mr. Carson. We can’t always agree.” “I know. But I don’t like it.” awwwwwwww

It seems Robert doesn’t need to do the convincing. When he and Carson go to the village, a woman is waiting for her son as he visits his father’s grave – which he does most days. It’s exactly what Carson needs to hear to change his mind. And besides, now he and Mrs. Hughes are on the same side again. I thought this was a really lovely reminder of the very real presence the war and its consequences still have on the characters and the world they occupy. While some may want to tuck that away in a pretty field, the reality of mourning is that it’s a part of our lives every day.

Jimmy’s time at Downton has finally come to an end, after his tryst at the end of last episode. He goes out of his way to thank Thomas and remind him that he’s not “the kind of man” he is usually friends with. The writers spend much of this episode’s time with Thomas trying to rein in “Evil Thomas,” reminding the audience that he’s a tortured man who doesn’t belong. While his backstory and his secrets should always inform who he is and what he does, the mustache twirling is often too much to be brought back with a simple reminder that he’s gay.

Thomas is pissed at Baxter for almost getting him fired, lashing out at her. Molsley won’t let him bully her anymore. To take revenge against Molsley’s gallantry, Thomas tells him about Baxter’s thieving past. Molsley wants to believe there is more to the story but Baxter won’t budge. He’s heartbroken. He asks her to explain but she feels that further explanation would defer responsibility and she can’t handle that.

Daisy’s studies continue to be a challenge for her so Mrs. Patmore arranges for Miss Bunting to come, paying for it herself. The first lesson is a success and when Miss Bunting is still there at dinner, Rose insists on inviting her up. Tom asks but she declines and leaves, though not before lobbing a few “You can be anything you want”s and “These people are awful”s over the wall before she does. No matter your feeling on her politics, she really is a shit-stirrer. It’s clear this season is one of crossroads for Tom. More than ever, he needs to pick sides. And it seems unlikely to be the side of the gentry.

It doesn’t help that Robert seems to hold Tom personally responsible for the Russian Revolution. Tom it seems, is turning back into himself. As Mary puts it, it’s not bad for him but it is for those who love him at Downton.

Rose wants a wireless but Robert isn’t having it. It’s a fad, he’s sure it won’t last. Rose tries a number of not-remotely-subtle techniques before hitting upon a successful one. What’s that? The King is going to speak on the wireless? By the time the wireless is set up, it hardly seems worth returning it. Moments like the King’s Speech, when Violet stands up while the King is speaking on the radio, when Mrs. Padmore asks if he can hear them speaking, reminds us of just how far removed we are from this world.

Mr. Drew is sure he has figured out how to get his wife on board with Edith spending time with Marigold. Edith could be the child’s godmother. Despite Mrs. Drew pointing out that Marigold already has a godmother, Edith thinks this is a brilliant idea. She brings it to the big house, where there only complaint (the same as Mrs. Drew’s) is that she’ll tire of the child and throw her off.

Mary, planning for her tryst, asks Anna to buy something for her to avoid any unwanted… complications. Anna is horrified but Mary insists it will be fine because she’s married with a living husband.

When Anna goes to the shop to make her purchase, it’s not enough that she’s a married woman, she has to lie and say she needs it for medical reasons. Despite how uncomfortable she was by the process, in thinking about it after, she’s furious at the hassle and can’t understand why a woman shouldn’t have access to such a thing. Preach, Anna. Preach.

Charles Blake has with his artist friend, Mr. Bricker. Mr. Bricker clearly likes beautiful things, Cora among them. Charles, it seems, is only there to wish Mary well in her clear choice of Tony Gillingham. Before he leaves, though, Charles reminds Mary to be certain before she decides. “You’re cleverer than he is. That may have worked last century but not now.” But Mary is off to her trip to Liverpool and Tony has arranged for them to have joining rooms. Tricky tricky.

Just before the credits, interrupting a flirty cup of tea between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson (is there any other kind between those two kids), a police officer shows up asking about Mr. Greene. Seems a witness has come forward… Dun dun dun.

Odds & Ends

Clean up from the fire – Anna finds the picture of the baby and gives it to Mrs. Hughes. Think that’ll come back?

Rose is collecting for the Russian refugees in York. Because, as she sees it, their “normal life” of shopping, dancing and visiting friends has come to a shockingly abrupt end.

Violet hasn’t stopped teasing Isabelle about Lord Merton for a moment. Their visit to Lord Merton’s estate cements her suspicion that he’s looking to marry Isabelle.

“I’m not very good at abroad.” Yes Robert, we know.

“Are we talking about sex or love?” “That is the question that mankind has been wrestling with since the dawn of time.”

“And tell your friend Bricker to stop flirting with Isis. There is nothing more ill-bred then trying to steal the affections of someone else’s dog.” Umm… Robert? You shouldn’t talk about your wife that way.

“Isabelle is never more happy than when she has a chance to use her guiding hand.”