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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey 5.2 - Episode Two




We're all caught up with the Crawleys, have launched a couple of love affairs, and have even managed to start a fire. If that's just the premiere, what on earth is the real drama going to look like?

One of the new actors appears to be called Tom Cullen, which makes me think of Stephen King's The Stand. "M-O-O-N, that spells complete lack of health and safety standards!" While the Earl and Carson go over the Committee stuff (it's incredibly dull, though Grantham does get schooled for prioritizing a cricket field over the deaths of millions), Mrs Hughes and Anna go through Edith's burnt-up room, where they find the picture of the Bastard. Jimmy leaves Downton for realz. He and Thomas decide that they were friends all along, and Jimmy even admits that "I'll be sad to see the back of you." Still, despite the unintentional innuendo, they actually have a pretty tender goodbye. Mrs Patmore and Daisy mourn the loss of Jimmy's handsomeness. Molesley, still dark-haired, is promoted to First Footman, though Carson points out that he is the only footman. Mrs Hughes laments that Times Are Changing, and footman rankings will soon be a thing of the past.

At lunch, Mary discusses her son with the same fondness she reserves for watching paint dry, and insults Edith for having the audacity to nearly lose her life in a fire. Also, Gillingham is coming, presumably to look at paintings, but we all know what he's after. Tom tries to smooth over the tension between Carson and the Earl over Committee nonsense. Rose wants one of those newfangled wirelesses coming on the market, the Earl shuts her down. There's discussion of the new Russian refugees, with some argument about  Tom's revolutionary ideals and the Crawley family's universal disapproval of those damn Commies. I'm just glad that it only took seven years for them to mention one of the most significant political events in history - indeed, one of the surest signs that Times are Changing. I also dearly wish that Schoolmistress Sarah had been present to offer her opinion, but some things are just too awesome for this world.

Edith goes to visit Marigold, who is adorbs. The farmer hints that she should "keep an eye on her as she grows", since she's such an orphan with NO PARENTS or anything. He suggests that Her Ladyship should also "take an interest", possibly even to the extent of becoming godmother, but the wife has come to regard Marigold as her own and resents this intrusion. Finally, they negotiate things down to a playdate with the Downton kids, and everyone pretends that they don't know the real truth. Yes, times were so much better back then.

The DC, Isobel and Dr. Clarkson have lunch, where we get into a discussion of the newly discovered insulin (WOOOO GO CANADA) and we learn that Lady Shackleton and Lord Merton are a Hot Item. Clarkson hits on Isobel, but the dear lady thinks she's being teased. For being one of the smarter ones, she sure is dumb sometimes.

Thomas continues to harass Baxter, to Molesley's brave yet wimpy defense. Rose appears downstairs to see Mrs Patmore, who wants to recruit the schoolteacher to help Daisy learn to math. Rose agrees, being softhearted and inclined to bite off more than she can chew.

It turns out that Mary is not going with Handsome Tony to look at paintings, but instead for a sinful weekend, using an artist friend as their alibi/fake chaperone. Considering the trail of dead suitors in her wake, I'd advise him not to go anywhere alone with her. Also, she's not sure how to prevent another George, so she asks Anna for advice, because all lower class women are total sluts. To help Anna in her rubber-buying quest, she even has an illegal book. Since Anna is married, she can go and buy something, and no one will be the wiser. Anna looks like she's about to keel over dead.

Thomas and Molesley go over more Baxter-related drama, during which Thomas spills all of Baxter's sordid stolen-jewellery related past. Bates steps in because he's an Icon of Righteous Vengeance. Thomas's only response is his best sneer. I have to say, the downstairs drama this season is leaving something to be desired so far.

Edith talks to her parents about Marigold, weaving yet another web of lies about her origins, and suggests that they Take an Interest in the kid's future. Dad says "Whatever, but remember not to abandon her", and they remain remarkably uncurious about why Edith's doing this. Being the Unfavourite has its advantages.

Mrs Hughes and Carson get into an argument about the memorial. Carson wants a garden, the Earl wants something more central, and Mrs Hughes agrees. Naturally, instead of considering that the suggestion has merit, Carson freaks out, and Mrs Hughes makes another reference to their status as Platonic Life Partners, complete with fights.

Anna goes to buy a diaphragm or rubbers or something and it's hilarious. The chemist preaches on about abstinence while Anna stammers about her "health" while turning crimson. She flees the store at approximately the speed of an impala. Meanwhile, Sarah agrees to tutor Daisy, paid by Mrs Patmore, and Daisy's thrilled.

Robert continues to resist the wireless, using the same arguments you've all heard about television and the Internet, while Cora's more open, mostly because she's American and Americans are Forward-Thinkers, duh. The DC takes Isobel and Lord Merton on an arranged date to some nice gardens.

Molesley finally tells Baxter that he knows about her past, which she takes surprisingly calmly. He keeps trying to find an excuse, which Baxter will not give him. I'd like to think she has an even juicier secret, but her attitude suggests there isn't. Watch your jewels, Lady G.

The Elderly Three continue on their date, with Merton oblivious and the two ladies sniping. I start to wonder if Merton is gay, or just sensitive. Bates and Anna discuss the latest scandalous thing that Mary's up to, but will obviously be discreet as usual. The Granthams have come to the conclusion that Edith's interest in the kid is because she doesn't have a baby of her own, and despair of their perpetual spinster who will never see any action whatsoever.

Blake the Pig-man shows up after spending the winter in Alexandria, which sends Mary's lady parts all a twitter. They discuss their tempestuous relationship and try not to jump each other. Rose manages to get Sarah Bunting invited for dinner, which gets the Earl muttering about a "tinpot Rosa Luxemburg" in their midst. She declines, but Tom is still gentlemanly and orders her a car to take her home. She, in turn, harps at him yet again for abandoning his principles and insults his dead wife's family. Sybil's theme plays again just to remind us that Tom is lonely and sad. Robert is relieved, much to Tom's dismay.

Rose discusses her charity work for Russian refugees, during which Robert takes every chance to diss Sarah. Tom states that he agrees with her re: the old Russian system, and thinks the English aristocratic system kind of sucks, too. Carson and the Earl continue to exert their manly stubbornness over the damn memorial. Meanwhile, Rose casually drops that the King is going to speak on the wireless. Carson is still leery of all technology, but Robert's interest is piqued. He decides that they will stand with the King "in the hour of his endurance". I am reminded of the time my father was introduced to Twitter.

Molesley has decided to forgive Baxter, who continues to push in his face that she had absolutely no reason to do it. The romance appears to be ON. Meanwhile, Lady G shows a wealthy visitor her collection of antiques, and sparks fly here, too, possibly of a past affair. Mrs Hughes tells Daisy to STFU about Miss Bunting, lest Carson think she's a Commie, too. Meanwhile, Carson and Mrs Hughes make up, and get closer and closer to actually flirting. Lady G quizzes Baxter about her past, but still refuses to dismiss her for reasons she can't quite work out. Rose leaves Mary and Blake unchaperoned. He gallantly tells her that he wants her to be happy, then somewhat less gallantly tells her to make sure she's sure before jumping Handsome Tony.

The Earl is super pissed about Sarah, and is afraid he'll lose his grandchild to the "harpy". Cora delicately suggests he not get ahead of himself. Furthermore, he wants Lord Whatsisname the guest to stop flirting...with Isis.

Mary is starting to waver a bit about Tony, though she still thinks he's worth a test drive. Anna reminds her of all the risks involved. More wavering. The Earl and Carson go to the potential memorial site and go over the merits of each idea. They meet a widow, who tells them how much having a site to mourn nearby means to her.

A compromise is reached, and an enormous wireless is hired for a day. Everyone is overcome with the power of technology, though Carson thinks it's another sign of the End of Days. Edith hangs out with Marigold some more, while the conflict between parents continues to simmer. Mr Drew maintains that Edith is not going to treat the kid like a doll, but won't say why. Over at Downton, everyone listens to the King.

Mary shows up for her Journey of Sin, looking fabulous and very Twenties. Everyone is bowled over by the radio. The DC thinks it makes the Royals common, and Isobel thinks it makes the Royals common. Finally, the Earl decides to keep the thing - just a little longer. Anna goes to see Thomas, and sympathizes over the loss of Jimmy. Thomas tells her that he will never be liked or belong. If he wasn't such a shit I'd feel sorry for him.

Gillingham arrives, and the Awkward Sex Adventure begins. To be honest, his sexy talk is among the least sexy I've ever heard, and Mary doesn't seem to be going for it either. Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson flirt-without-flirting, like they've been doing for forty years, until Thomas announces a policeman's arrival. At first it seems like Thomas has finally framed Baxter, but it turns out that it's about the late Mr. Rapist Green. You see...there's a witness! Scary music blares once again, and that's the end of the episode.

Next time - Cora gives Baxter an ultimatum, Edith's situation comes to a head, the Russians arrive, and it turns out that Granny of all people has a past. We don't get any indication whether or not Mary and Handsome Tony have done the deed, though come on, they totally didn't.

This episode had some interesting plots, but all in all it felt like it was just a stop on the way to something bigger. It looks like Episode Three will be the eventful one. So let's leave it here, and tune in next week to find out which character from Anna Karenina the Dowager Countess bonked. Until next time.

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