Aaaand we're back! Now safely relocated to Canada, Worldly Distractions enters its third (second and a half?) season. As we did last year, we begin with Downton Abbey, the frivolous of the frivolous. Everything - that is, internet speculation - hints at a dramatic series premiere. Will Mary find love? (Probably.) Will Edith reconcile her troubled personal life? (Not bloody likely.) And will they kill off the Dowager Countess? (No way - her Maggisty is the main factor behind those sweet, sweet ratings.) The stream is loaded and the drinking game planned. Let's all lie back and think of England.
Warning:Â This is for the British broadcast of Series 5, set some months before that of North America. If you wish to avoid spoilers, please do not proceed. Especially you, Yanks.
Standard opening credits, with some intriguing new names - Raquel Cassidy? David Robb? Ed Speleers? We join EdithÂ on a lovely bicycle ride down to the old stone barn. She's here to visit the Big Secret, who is now an adorable toddler. We are informed that it's 1924.
Downton Abbey is a site of consternation, as England's first Labour PM has been elected and they're worried the King might be sad. Mary is surprisingly open to it, Rose is still a rebel, and Tom has managed to find himself a lot of business at the local school, hem hem. Also, Sybbie has given Grandpappa an embarrassing nickname. Nanny brings in the kids, who are adorable as usual.
The normal frenzy of activity is going on downstairs, where the kitchen maids are feeling the extra work with Ivy's sudden absence. They're also busy getting ready for someone's 34th anniversary. Daisy is looking towards moving to her father-in-law's farm, which causes Mrs Patmore some annoyance.
Edith goes to visit the bastard, whose name is Marigold. She seems perfectly happy with the tenant farmer and his family, who don't know that she's Edith's, but instead thinks she belongs to conveniently dead friend. The look on Edith's face is just heartwrenching. However, the family's conduct after she leaves would suggest that they know more than they let on.
Isobel is still being consistently hit on by Lord Merton, who is helped by the DC and her snarky matchmaking ways. The old ladies take a walk through the cemetery to discuss this. Of course, Isobel continues to be most improper.
Lady Whatsername who was hot for Jimmy is continuing to send letters, delivered by a watchful Thomas. Carson disapproves. What else is new. The word "smutty" comes up a lot.
The Crawleys dress up in fantastic '20s style for dinner. Seriously, the gowns are as fantastic as ever. It transpires that Handsome Tony (Lord Gillingham) is trying to set up a war memorial in the area. Robert thinks he might be able to maneuver this into a marriage deal. Haha, nice try. When is he ever going to realize that his daughter has a mind of her own? I mean, if a dead diplomat didn't do it...
Thomas continues to press Baxter for secrets about the Bateses. Molesley comes to her defence, for which she is grateful. I still don't by this storyline. They talk about the new PM - everyone but Carson supports him, basically, because Carson's sole purpose is to glare and be one of the Old Guard. Mrs Patmore also believes that they're revolutionaries, as much as she can be bothered to think of it at all.
The Earl is a bit concerned about being at the ceremony, since he didn't fight in the war at all. Cora assures him it's cool. We get a lovely colour shot of people crossing the grounds. The Postmistress has arrived with other dignitaries to discuss the ceremony. They want Carson to be the committee chairman, with the logic that he knew more of the young men who died. I think it has more to do with his dictatorial style of command, but that's just me. Robert is all too grateful to hand over the reins, not matter how much Carson splutters. The Postmistress seems extremely bossy. Keep an eye on her, and don't let her near Thomas.
Jimmy gets another letter from Lady Whatserface. Thomas is grumpy. Lots of veiled references to his sexuality.
Robert visits the DC to fill her in. He's more sore about the committee thing than he previously let on. He's also interested in Isobel's activity, especially if it elevates her to the status of Lady. Can't have the socialist getting above herself. Unnecessarily dramatic music plays. I see they haven't fired the composer yet.
Daisy gets a mysterious item in the post, Carson is scared of being on the committee because he can't stand getting above his Lordship, since Times are Changing and he can't cope. My god, not another season of hearing this damn themeÂ 130,000 times.
As Edith is heading out to see the bastard, Mrs Hughes stops her with a German primer she found in one of the rooms. It belongs to the Roving Reporter himself. Edith is quite shaken, but composes herself in time to join a visit to the school with Tom and Rose. This prompts Lord Grantham to complain about Tom's sketchy relationship with the commie teacher. Mary hears about the committee, and appears to be the only person who thinks Carson's
tyrannyÂ leadership is a splendid idea.
It turns out that Lady Rose has been chosen to present the awards at the school's end-of-year ceremony. One of tenant farmer's kids won some of the prizes, which allows Edith to talk to the farmer, who tells her they "need to talk". I can't tell if they're hot for each other, or if he just knows her secret. Tom and Sarah have more flirty talk, in which she fits as many insults to his in-laws as possible. This is truly a romance for the ages.
The DC has invited Dr Clarkson over to interfere with Isobel's private life, making him as jealous as she can over Lord Merton. The good doctor is grumpy as crap. To push the deal ahead, she invites him to lunch with the happy couple, complete with a pretence of a girlfriend for Clarkson. We all know what she really intends. Meddling devil.
Mary and Robert have a chat about how he's getting pushed aside. Times Are Changing, and Mary's learning crop rotation )please let there be a crop circle subplot - crossover with AHS?) while Robert is slowly getting pushed aside for his staff. Baxter and Thomas have a confrontation on the stairs while Edith mopes over her lost babydaddy.
Cora comments on how Violet would never stand for Lady Isobel, and suspects that the DC is up to no good. Robert doesn't believe her. Mrs Patmore stumbles across Daisy, who is clandestinely studying math. She explains that she needs it to "grow up" and run things for herself, including possibly the Mason farm. She's having a hard time, though, which she attributes to being "pig-ignorant". Molesley blackens his hair, presumably for an extra dose of manliness.
Rose drops in on Tom's office. Wait, he has an office now? She pries into his sex life, especially as concerning Sarah. He evades the topic and maintains that it would be too much for Lord and Lady Grantham to handle.
Carson and Robert rehash the Committee Situation, taking care not to tread on each others' egos. Both wind up bruised anyway.
Edith meets with the farmer, who a) has figured out her secret and thinks she's hot for him. He advises her to "live the truth without telling the truth", whatever that means, so that she can have a healthier relationship with Little Bastard Marigold.
The Bateses flirt while Thomas threatens Baxter and Carson and Mrs Hughes go over the Committee Situation for the eightieth fucking time. Thomas and Jimmy diss Lady Whatsername and her flirtatious ways.
Lady Shackleton shows up at the DC's. Violet asks some pointed questions about Lord Merton, because she's totally not setting them up or anything.
Baxter spills all to Molesley, who is sympathetic and vaguely stupid. She hints at having some kind of Dark Past which prevents her from telling Lady Grantham about it. Also, she thinks Molesley's hair is stupid, and he's old before his time. Well, one year, but it still aches.
Lady Whatsername (um, Anstruther) calls Cora asking for a sudden invitation to tea, which leaves Cora rather confused. The girls also want to invite some people over, which Robert takes as a great excuse for a fortieth-anniversary party for him and Cora. They whisper to each other, and it's not about Sarah in any way whatsoever.
The senior staff argue about Daisy's studies. Carson and Mrs Patmore disapprove, since she's just a cook, while Mrs Hughes remains Champion of the Downtrodden. Daisy shows up and continues to put herself down like the Butt Monkey she is.
The Crawley women discuss the party, which Anna takes as a chance to make big hints about Handsome Tony. Mary maintains that she has no feelings for him, and who the hell wants to decide that sort of thing in a rush anyway? They talk about Kids These Days and their immoral sexual conduct, grinning the whole while. Mary's totally going to get laid by the end of this episode, right?
Carson hands out commands for Gillingham's visit, and takes the opportunity to disapprove of Molesley's hair. Rose wanders over to the school, where she invites Sarah over to the party. She treats it with mega suspicion, as it comes from the Evil Rich. Rose sort of implies that Cora approves (false), but also tells her it's a surprise for Tom (true). I foresee a catastrophe.
Thomas harasses Baxter (God I am sick of this plot) while Molesley keeps watch. The DC holds her damn lunch already, where Isobel and Clarkson talk medicine, and Merton and Lady Shackleton talk Rich People. Isobel knows exactly what's going on, to her credit.
Handsome Tony arrives! Mary, looking smashing in navy blue, flirts outrageously. Carson continues to whinge about the committee. Mary politely assures him that it's okay to get above his station. Tony, Tom and Mary plan to go out on the farm later in the day, and if one of them's not covered in mud in a sexy way, I want my money back.
The Matchmaking Luncheon continues. Isobel plays with the men's jealousy, Dr Clarkson tries to persuade her to get Â with him because of class differences. It's not too successful. Judging by Merton and Shackleton's intimate conversation, it looks like he's a lost cause - much to Isobel's annoyance.
Thomas continues his cartoon villainy. Having unearthed that something was up with Lord Gillingham's valet, he threatens to unmask the Dark Past if Baxter doesn't pony up by dinnertime. The score continues to suck, Baxter cries, and Thomas is less credible with every syllable.
Mary, Tom and Handsome Tony go out in the fog to shoot birds. Tom is still considering a move to America, and Mary and Tony are still considering each other. Mary's hunting outfit is most fetching. The conversation quickly turns romantic. She maintains that marriage is not something to rule out, but she doesn't want to do it unless she knows she'll be happy. He mentions something about "making our lives simpler", which clearly appeals. Mary
takes her top off smiles contentedly.
Lady Anstruther shows up, brash and overly forward as usual. Robert thinks Molesley looks "Latin" all of a sudden and inquires as to whether he has Italian/Spanish/Irish blood. Molesley, for his part, heads downstairs to urge Baxter to come clean with Lady G before Thomas does. She weeps, but seems amenable to his suggestion. Needless to say, they'll be married by Episode 6.
Thomas throws yet moreÂ barbs about Jimmy's noble girlfriend. Carson is starting to notice, and of course disapprove. Baxter heads upstairs to confess. See, Thomas knew Baxter as a young woman, and managed to find out that Baxter was a thief in one of her previous jobs. She spent some time in the clink, but managed to get rid of the goods first. Cora is shocked, but graciously sends her out of the room.
Bates has been put in charge of Gillingham during his visit, where he broaches the topic of the dead Mr. Rapist Green. We gather that Tony has no suspicions about the man's death, which Bates takes with relief and characteristic grumpiness. Molesley praises Baxter for being honest, even if it costs her the job, and she promises that she'll be honest with him one day. Romantic music plays, in case we didn't get the point.
Lady Anscougar hits on Jimmy, declaring him a "very naughty boy". Unfortunately, Carson walks in on the last bit. She reminds me oddly of Cruella DeVil, cackling and tossing her hair while declaring that she could never stick with a husband. Sarah Bunting shows up, looking fabulous and giving Lord Grantham a stroke. She immediately puts her foot in it by discussing money. Tom reads Rose the riot act for inviting her in the first place. Isobel'sÂ thrilled, of course.
The dinner party is instantly livened up. Political debates ensue, Robert and Violet harrumph. At dinner, he manages to toast Cora without praising her fortune for its wonderful role in their marriage. Isobel congratulates Carson on the committee, one of the guest whines about how Sarah thinks she's stupid. Across the table, Carson catches Lady Anstrumpet passing notesÂ with Jimmy and furrows his brow. Sarah commits an unforgivable sin by complaining about the war memorial and declaring the war pointless. Robert is livid. Tom rushes to her defense, praising the Russian Revolution and supporting Sarah's dislike of the war. Sarah insults Robert based on his removal from the comittee. Carson covers the moment by hastily lying that the Committee wants Robert after all. Robert gratefully accepts, Isobel waxes eloquent about having principles, and the DC gets in yet another zinger.
Carson takes Jimmy to task about the notes, and even manages to sneak in a dig at Daisy's sudden need for education. Upstairs, Sarah wants to meet the staff. Tom and Robert actively discourage her. Mary tells Edith to stop moping, because clearly she has no problems. Cora suggests that Sarah be allowed to go downstairs, and hisses at her husband that he shouldn't "answer rudeness with rudeness". He also comments on Molesley's hair, again. Sarah is a massive hit downstairs, while Thomas tries to rat out Baxter to Lady G. She tells him that she knows and has learned to deal with it, but is in fact mad atÂ ThomasÂ for placing a convict in their midst. By his petard, he is hoisted. Also, this might be the one genuinely badass moment Cora's ever had.
Tom is summoned to the parlour, where his father-in-law complains about his terrible taste in women. He attempts to apologize, which sends Robert down the we-gave-you-everything track. He worries that Tom will be turned into a "hater" again (what is this slang doing in 1924?), though if they're having sex, ehhh, NBD. The Twenties, they were a different time.
Cora interrogates Baxter on her criminal past, confused by a lack of motive. However, the lady's maid is not dismissed - for now. In exchange, Baxter only has to say that she totally won't steal ever again, pinky swear.
Mary bitches about the firebrand schoolteacher. Carson brings Molesley in for a Hair Lecture, advising him to lay off the shoe polish and confining him downstairs until it's gone. We next find Molesley hunched over a bathtub with pitchers of water. In her bedroom, Edith cries and mopes over the Roving Reporter and their lovechild. He's totally going to come back by Episode 4, isn't he? As she tries to sleep, she throws the book into the fireplace, whereupon itÂ falls to the floor...
Thomas and Jimmy go up to send the latter to Lady Skankalicious, where they catch Lord GillinghamÂ sneaking around, presumably looking to get murdered by Mary's nobleman-killing vagina. Assume that Thomas will use both incidents for unspeakably evil purposes. He gives Jimmy a "fuck that countess good" pep talk and promises to stand guard. Jimmy naively assumes they're friends now. A night of illegitimate shenanigans begins. So...I guess it's true. No one cares about Edith even when she isÂ on fire.
Handsome Tony assumes he has won the Mary's Affection Sweepstakes, and suggestsÂ that Mary take him for a test drive just so she can be "sure". Hey, at least it's healthier than the Duggars' approach to love and marriage. His proposition is a sinful weekend away, where he's sure he can shag her into eternal happiness. And you know, Mary doesn't seem all that opposed to the idea.
Thomas can't stand his crush screwing Lady A, so he wanders the hallway morose. He notices the fire. Mary and Tom run for the children, while Thomas manages to get Lady Edith out of the room. Howling at the others to "save the dog", Robert runs for sandbuckets and recruits Tom for the extinguishing effort. He stumbles upon Jimmy and the Lady, and tersely informs them that the house is on fire. Carson ushers the staff outside while shouting for the missing Jimmy. Luckily, the fire service arrives, and Downton is saved. Everyone manages to get outside. Cora tearfully thanks Thomas for saving her daughter's life (and tells him to forget about the treachery, he's back in good graces), while Lady A tactfully tells the Earl that she'll try to slip away before breakfast. Ever mindful of priorities, Robert advises Carson to fire Jimmy, but give him a good reference because scandal. Oh, and Isis the dog got out okay, in case you're wondering.
It turns out that baby Marigold's adoptive dad is on the firefighting force. He takes the opportunity to suggest to Edith that she "take an interest" in the child's life. Mrs Hughes watches from the side, her eyes suspicious. End credits.
Next time: Downton gets a gramophone, Mary juggles suitors, Violet continues to meddle, Tom talks about his sordid past (which may involve murder?). Whatever happens, we can assume that scandal is just around the corner.
So, was it a great episode? Not really, but it does show potential. A lot of old ground was retrod, but on the other hand, Firebrand Sarah shows some promise, irritating as she is, and the Abbey did almost burn down. I can't see much coming from Edith's storyline, unless she has a torrid affair with the farmer or Gregson comes back (or both). Let's face it, a season-long mope is much more likely. Mary will continue to fight off the boyfriends, Tom will be a permanent fish out of water, and Violet will try to ruin Isobel's life, only to be thwarted by a well-placed quip. Nonetheless, I'm sure the writers have a surprise or two up their sleeves, and even if it's utterly predictable, it's certain to be a fun - and eye-catching - ride. Check in with me next week. In the meantime, I'm off to rescue some hounds.