“A day of racing cars and pigs. Who could better that?” asks Tom early in Episode 5. “My ulcer, by not erupting at dinner,” thinks Lord Grantham. And long live Queen Mary!
By Matt Gurry
What happened upstairs…
Lady Edith goes to London to meet Bertie Pelham again. She tells Lord Grantham “it’s nothing like that,” but with only five more episodes, she’d better turn it into something like that soon. Will she, though? “Of course not,” says Lady Mary. And Mary’s probably right, what with Edith having to come up with all the think pieces herself now.
Mary and Tom survey the grounds for a bit. Which is to say they talk about a tool shed for a minute, and then talk about their love lives for the next 20. The takeaways are predictable: Mary hesitates over potential beau Henry Talbot being below her; Tom reminisces over Lady Sybil’s relationship with the chauffeur (i.e., him) being “a marriage of equals.” I’m left reminiscing over Tom’s dimples in that scene. (+1 Family)
And guess who’s coming to dinner! You don’t have to, really, since even the children are told it’s Neville Chamberlain. But when he does arrive, he’s in for a surprise even bigger than anything Sidney Poitier offered. All that burping around the castle hasn’t been indigestion, but a gastrectomy waiting to happen. Fortunately for Robert, he wasn’t available to call the shots tonight (for obvious reasons) and crisis management was directed by the woman who should have had the gig during Lady Sybil’s pregnancy, Cora “Hours Ago” Crawley. (+1 Family…for Cora, not Robert, just to be clear)
Speaking of the children, Cora and the Dowager Countess have a sloppy conversation as they hustle to the hospital, which elevates Mary’s Marigold alert from Arched Eyebrow to Mouth Agape.
…and what happened downstairs…
Tonight’s opening shot goes to Mr. Mason, which is rather impressive for a minor character (+1 Villagers). Though, he’s riding his horse-drawn cart, which is rather embarrassing for These Changing Times. (-1 These Changing Times) His arrival at Yew Tree Farm (finally) sets into motion or pushes along a couple subplots. Daisy’s thinking more about a life out of service, and Andy’s illiteracy finally offers Thomas some light of a friendship despite being that way.
Elsewhere in the village, Mrs. Hughes isn’t much of a domestic goddess which is actually somewhat surprising; Mr. Carson doesn’t handle the case with much empathy, which is certainly not. Too bad for both of them that Nigella Lawson isn’t around yet to say you can serve bubble and squeak with lamb if you damn well please, and you can do it in bed in your nightie at that!
Finally, it looks like Law & Order: York has finally been canceled. Mr. Coyle has changed his plea, meaning that Mrs. Baxter’s turmoil over whether or not to be a character witness was for naught. The whole affair is over and was indeed, to use Baxter’s word, anticlimactic. Carson appraises this business best: “Do other butlers have to contend with the police arriving every 10 minutes?”
…and how Julian bulldozed the door between them:
Actually, I think the Dowager Countess must have had a talk with the Emperor Julian over the past week because all of tonight’s upstairs-downstairs crossovers had everyone acting appropriately. Lady Mary’s check-in on Mr. Mason at Yew Tree Farm is efficient and cordial while Violet lays down the law to her employee Mrs. Denker (and, one assumes, to Julian Fellowes). Exasperated about all the class-crossing buddies lately, Violet spits out: “For a lady’s maid! [gasps] to insult a physician! [gasps] in the open street! You’ve read too many novels, Denker. You’ve seen too many moving pictures!”
Just Checking: Are These Times of Change?
If you ask Daisy, she’d say yes. That is, if you can pull her away from The Communist Manifesto for a minute, but the rest of the episode is surprisingly conservative.
Race cars! The sport (activity?) had been around since the turn of the century, but it would have been right about now, maybe a year or so later, that purpose-built race cars were replacing road cars. But back to the Crawleys. Lady Mary is (understandably) averse to cars, and Tom offers her some metaphor connecting cars to love which even I thought a little dippy. Those dimples when he says it, though! (+1 Family)
The real winner of the scene is Downton Abbey composer John Lunn. (+1 Julian Fellowes, accepting on John Lunn’s behalf) I love all his little little leitmotifs on the show. My favorite is by far “Swanky Dinner in London,” but “Exciting Race Car Driving” is really solid. Lunn explained his themes, and how he actually prefers writing electronic, on Weekend Edition this Sunday. (Other themes discussed include “Important Telegram” and “Droopy Mr. Bates.”)
Who Was That Guy?
- Neville Chamberlain. The Minister of Health under Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, he’d go on to be PM himself during the first years of WWII. It was his government that declared war on Germany, which Violet would have been happy to know if you can get over the fact that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, Violet would likely be long dead by then.
Questions and Comments
- Tonight was the rare chance for Mrs. Patmore to sigh about her personal life. I love Patmore scenes, but worrying about her loneliness is a downer, so instead let’s focus on…
- …Lesley Nicol’s cute acceptance speech for the SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series. First, congratulations to all! (+1 Staff) (+1 Family) (+1 Villagers) And then, some special individual shout-outs:
- American actors who for six years have shown “only amazing kindness and generosity” (+1 Matt, accepting on behalf of all Americans);
- I don’t know what look Jeremy Swift (Mr. Spratt) was going for, but I’m glad he went for it (+1 Staff);
- Joanne Froggatt looked great in burgundy and SoCal tan (+1 Staff);
- Allen Leech wore a tux and was ridiculously, adorably smiley (+1 Family);
- Julian Fellowes provides the scripts that without which “we’d all be screwed” (+1 Julian Fellowes);
- and Duncan and Bobby, the “two big burly crew” who were sobbing on the last day of filming (+1 Duncan and Bobby).
- I don’t know much about race car history. Or race car present, really. Does anyone have anything interesting to offer?
- We really do need to start talking seriously about Downton Death Watch 2016. Mr. Carson reminds us, “Life is short, death is sure. That is all we know.” It looks like Lord Grantham dodged a bullet tonight. Who won’t this season? Anna? Violet? Or some minor character, like the village diaphragm salesman?
- Ironic that the Minister of Health couldn’t be much use in the medical crisis.
- You probably missed this in the ulcer melée—it took me a second viewing—but Carson instructs his staff to fetch their Ladyships’ coats as they’re going to the hospital, “and don’t forget Lady Edith,” he adds. Can’t catch a break, that one.
Learn to Speak Fellowes
“We saw Henry Talbot try out a racing car, so now we’re all members of the Bright Young Things.” —Tom, referring to the Brat Pack of 1920s England, which included Cecil Beaton, Nancy Mitford, and Evelyn Waugh among others. “I don’t know about ‘bright,’” replies Lady Mary, referring to Lady Edith.
This Week’s Winner
Mrs. Baxter. We have reason to believe Sergeant Willis is finally out of our lives for good, and we should all be appreciative that she got rid of him. I’m sure Mr. Carson agrees. (+1 Staff)
This Week’s Loser
Mrs. Denker. She’s fired, she’s hired, she’s an ally, she’s an enemy, she’s lost Matt’s interest. (-1 Staff)
The Dowager Countess. She needs to stop fangirling over the Minister of Health and start remembering to keep her quippy little mouth shut about Marigold in front of Lady Mary.
Season 6 Leaderboard
Villagers: -1 point (+2 from Episode 4). With Mrs. Drewe gone, the damage control begins.
Duncan and Bobby: 1 point (new to leaderboard). Pics or it didn’t happen.
Matt: 2 points (+1 from Episode 4)
The Windsors: 2 points (no change from Episode 4)
Julian Fellowes: 4 points (+2 from Episode 4)
Family: 9 points (+5 from Episode 4). Cora and Tom are pulling all the weight, a strong argument for immigrants.
These Changing Times: 11 points (-1 from Episode 4). An unexpected drop from #1! Daisy’d better start talking more about Karl Marx soon.
Staff: 12 points (+3 from Episode 4). And the Staff takes control. Changing times, indeed! Oh wait…
Matt Gurry writes about Downton Abbey with an unhealthy enthusiasm at decantersandbanter.wordpress.com. Join us next week for our next episode recap!
Last modified: March 13, 2018