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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey 5.3 - Episode Three




Another Sunday, another episode of Downton (and The Simpsons, but that will be up tomorrow night because CFK's work schedule is punishing and awful). Let's tune in for another riveting hour of English village political blustering.

Mary and Handsome Tony have finally done the deed. Dang, I was so sure she would back out due to his complete blandness (see: the bulk of the second half of last review). However, it's still a huge secret, as evidenced by the hide-from-room-service-in-the-bathroom thing they're doing, like this is some episode of Frasier. Tony seems to believe that his sexin' powers were overpowering enough to make them Automatically Engaged. Mary goes on and on about being "tarnished", and says everything has to be timed properly, which is why she won't commit to a marriage just yet. When Tony leaves the room, her dismayed look says it all, leaving an entire audience wondering just how underwhelming Lord Gillingham actually was.

While Daisy blathers on about math, Mrs Patmore gets some disturbing news, which we are not privy to just yet. Lady G still seems to be flirting with that art guy, and has an undoubtedly riveting plot coming up about church flowers. Tom has a new business idea, Rose is probably screwing a bunch of Russians, and Edith is off to visit her love child. The Earl and his wife, of course, remain entirely oblivious, as they have actually acknowledged Edith's existence about three times in the past decade.

Carson is sitting in his office, minding his own business, when Thomas comes in and asks to be alone. Carson - inexplicably lets him. Huh. He calls a mysterious London phone number. Mary and Gillingham finish their fuckfest and head for home. She remains noncommittal, though Tony assumes that everything is set.

The DC continues to meddle in Isobel's love life, though Isobel could apparently care less. We find out that the DC's servant is in Liverpool, which instantly means that Mary is busted. Considering that Granny has kept Edith's illegitimate baby a secret the whole time, I highly doubt that this will amount to more than knowing looks over the dinner table. Meanwhile, Carson deals with the constable, who reports that a witness overheard Mr Rapist Green asking his murderer, "Why have you come?" Coupled with a report from Green that he argued with a servant at Downton, the evidence is clear. Faced with the prospect of yet another season of Bates-in-jail, I contemplate the half-full bottle of rum left in the kitchen cupboard. Fortunately, Carson ensures a slightly different plotline when he accidentally incriminates himself instead.

Edith is no fool, and taunts Mary about all the "sketches" she was supposed to have produced while away. Meanwhile, Tom brings up his business proposition, which involves building a bunch of houses on Downton land and taking in some of the sales. The Earl is outraged, as his obligatory stick-in-the-mud role demands. The children are brought in for their daily five minutes of parental affection, and Edith looks sad. "She-is-stricken" music plays, in case we haven't figured that out.

Mrs Hughes lies her ass off about any possibly conflict Green might have had at Downton. Mrs Patmore corners her about her own problem. She had a nephew who was shot for cowardice in the war. Her sister's village is doing its own memorial, and the Committee refuses to add the man's name. I have to wonder if this committee is also run by Carson. 1920s telecommuting, perhaps? Anyway, Mrs P wants her nephew's name on the local memorial, so that the people in her sister's village won't ask questions. Mrs Hughes promises to put in a good word, but knows that having to get past Carson is no small feat.

The servant is back from the wedding, and immediately reports to the DC to rat on Mary, though not after some labyrinthine bickering, of course. The DC pretends she knew already, and makes up something about a "conference" to appease the servant.

Mrs Hughes tells Anna about the latest developments in the Bates Case Part II, which predictably sends Anna down a vortex of fear, both of losing her husband and of having her rape exposed. Thomas continues to skulk. Mary gets a phone call from Granny. Rose discusses her Russians, and suggests bringing them to Downton so they can be exposed to the good life once again. The conversation quickly turns to Robert's parents' visit to Russia in the 1870s, and yup, I'm already squealing.

Unfortunately, the scene cuts off there, and we head downstairs. Anna is upset and talks about leaving Downton. Thomas claims that his father is dying and that he must leave immediately. Baxter alludes to their shared past. Later, Baxter asks Lady G whether she's going to be fired or not. Lady G says she cannot make a decision without hearing the full story. Lord and Lady G spend the rest of the scene reminiscing about the hectic war days, while Lady G pretends she's totally not going to London to cheat on him tomorrow.

Mary dodges all questions about marriage, and begs Anna to hide "the thing" that was surreptitiously purchased in the pharmacy last week. Anna worries that her part in Mary's "sin" will come back to bite her. They then discuss Bates, which would be really interesting if they hadn't done this two seasons back.

As predicted, Carson is apoplectic about Mrs Patmore's nephew. Mrs Hughes cites shell shock as a mitigating factor. Carson goes on about the men who bravely stood up, and says a coward can't stand alongside them. Mrs Hughes stomps off, greatly disappointing her work husband.

Baxter tells all to Molesley, who is passive and adorable as always. Good god, I'm really starting to ship these two.

Cora and Baxter head off to London, and oh my god this is totally going to end with an in flagrante moment and some blackmail, right? Meanwhile, Carson interrupts Mrs Hughes telling Mrs Patmore about the decision. Seeing her heartbroken face, his resolve weakens just a little. However, he makes up for it by insulting Daisy for daring to want an education. The police conveniently show up at that moment, so Mrs Hughes gets a moment to encourage Daisy to Follow Her Dream.

Robert has decided to go to London, which is going to end incredibly badly, of course. Meanwhile, the police have managed to put the finger on Bates, and oh god not this again.

Summoned to Granny's place, Mary is unnerved by the servant's reference to Liverpool. The DC appears with glittering eyes, and Mary is cornered. The DC is shocked, but at least mollified by the lack of an illegitimate baby and the imminence of Handsome Tony's proposal. She urges Mary to hurry up and set the date before anyone finds out she's damaged goods (again).

As soon as they get to London, Cora gets Baxter alone and coaxes the story out. She dated an abusive footman, who coerced her into stealing the jewellery. He got off scot-free, and she considers the matter closed. Cora looks mildly stunned, but that's how she usually looks anyway.

Bates recounts his day in York/Anywhere-But-London, and it appears to satisfy the police. Bates and Anna discuss it without really discussing what happened, and Scary Rapist Music plays once more. Sigh.

Cora is shown around the National Gallery by Lord Cuckolder, and if you've ever been to an art museum, you can imagine how interesting that scene is. I almost wish she'd go ahead and cheat just so something would happen already.

Mrs Drew arrives home to find that Edith has absconded with the child she was supposed to be babysitting. Fortunately, both are found, along with Mr Drew, a few yards away. Once Edith is gone, the Drews have a serious discussion about boundaries, which was kind of overdue to be honest. Mrs Drew also accuses her husband of wanting to shag Edith, just for good measure. (And is it just me, or is that kid way too old? She's supposed to be about 1, and looks well into 2. Get it right, Downton casting agents.)

Mr Whatsisname invites Cora to the Ritz, still pretending that it's about art. She goes along, since most things tend to escape Cora's grasp. Back at Downton, Mrs Hughes worries that there are holes in Bates's story, and tells this to Mary. However, their chief concern seems to be hiding it from Carson. Fair enough - I'd find an angry Carson much more frightening than all of Scotland Yard put together.

A little tipsy, Cora walks through London with her suitor. She tells him her life story and how much it sucks to be a Misfit American. They exchange some steamy looks. He asks her out again, but she refuses. This is quite fortunate, because when she arrives at poor Rosamund's house (seriously, imagine having to host half the family pretty much every episode just because you live in London), Robert is there. And he is not pleased at her conduct. They have a fight, during which I learn that Cora's boyfriend's name is Bricker, which I keep mishearing as Pricker, which makes the conversation much more interesting. Cora storms off offended, Robert is downhearted.

Back at the estate, Tom is the first person to notice that Edith seems a bit preoccupied - a real feat considering that the kid has been there for over a year - and Mary comments that Tom does, too. He talks about "not wanting to hurt people", which means he'll be out on a boat to America by the end of the season, and Mary admits that she's feeling the same thing - about Tony. Her reaction to marriage is somewhere along the lines of "meh". And now I really want to know what happened in Liverpool. Tom, of course, knows that there was no sketching trip. They promise to support each other no matter what, which is adorable, and I wonder why we've had endless war memorial talk when a dozen more scenes with Tom would do just fine.

Isobel and the DC decide to go to Rose's Russian tea, but the DC seems strangely reluctant. We all know it's because she totally had an affair with Vronsky, and something about Isobel's line of questioning makes me think that she suspects, too. Cora and Robert return from London, barely speaking, and promptly take charge of the tea. Robert even brings out some items from the long-ago trip to Russia. Tony also shows up, though the Russians are not the drawing point in his case. He proceeds to badger her about marriage, which leaves Violet practically dancing.

Sarah Bunting arrives for Daisy's math lesson, only to find that it's been cancelled due to the tea. She sneaks in a few choice comments about aristocrats. Rose most unwisely invites her to stay. Sarah smiles like the Devil. I cringe in advance. There's a difference between having principles and taunting people who have had their lives uprooted.

"In my day, a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she had been instructed to do so by her Mamma," says the DC, as part of her tirade against premarital shenanigans. Upstairs, Cora asks Baxter to report her ex - but also tells her that she can stay whether she does so or not.

Robert uses the word "Russkies", which is hilarious. As everyone goes to greet the Russian contingent, Edith is summoned to the back door, where Mr Drew is waiting. He asks that she stay away - just for a while. Mrs Drew is getting annoyed with the constant hovering, so his solution is that everyone take a break. Cue Edith running upstairs crying yet again, to the confusion of a number of the staff.

The Russians arrive and all look just like the dead writers I studied in college. Robert flips out at the sight of Sarah, and with good reason on this particular occasion. She immediately proceeds to offend everyone in earshot, to the point where the Russians are about to leave. I have to wonder if she's finally crossed the line, where Tom is concerned. Cora manages to save the moment by inviting them to see the Russian memorabilia. Also, these are some of the worst Russian accents I've ever heard.

While the guests weep over the items, the DC recounts her long-ago trip to St. Petersburg, which makes me want to go back all over again. She gets nostalgic over a fan, which was given to her at a ball during the trip, whereupon the giver of the fan reveals himself to be in the group. Turns out she and Prince Kuragin had some serious hots for each other, if the looks they give each other indicate anything. Also, his wife is conveniently out of the picture. OH MY GOD ROBERT'S TOTALLY GETTING A RUSSIAN  STEPDAD.

Mrs Hughes is enjoying the proceedings, despite all the foreigners. Mary keeps smirking at her grandmother, who declares her impertinent. Eventually, they decide that they understand each other. As they leave, Isobel asks the DC if she's going to call on Prince Kuragin again. The DC evades the question, but gives him a meaningful look out the window.

Next time: Daisy studies some more, it appears that Isobel gets a proposal, the DC visits her ex-suitor, and Blake is back in the picture - with a lady friend.

This episode was definitely eventful, and I'm glad to see Mary loosening up for once. It was also interesting to find out more about the DC's past, and certainly a good thing that it appears to be continuing. The Baxter plot can - finally! - be thrown aside, and it also looks like we won't be getting another bloody Bates-in-prison story. In general, this was quite the improvement over episodes one and two. This season is threatening to be the teeniest bit dull, especially with all the repetitive storylines, but at the very least, this episode was not at all guilty.


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