‘Downton Abbey’ Season/series 5, Episode 4: Breaking up is hard to do

May of 1924 is a troubling time at Downton Abbey. Love never dies, at least not when the lovers still live. Breaking up is hard to do. “Downton Abbey” Season/Series 5, Episode 4 airs on PBS, Sunday, 25 January 2015, 9/8c. Check local listings. Afterwards it is available on demand on the PBS website.

Episode 4 begins with Mr. Barrow (Rob James-Collier) returning from his supposed visit to see his ill father.  He’s too late for lunch, and upstairs, the Crawleys have dining together. We learn that Rose’s father is in London and that something is definitely wrong because Mary (Michelle Dockery) signals to her father that he’s asking the wrong questions. Mary and Tom (Allen Leech) remind Robert (Hugh Bonneville) that they have a meeting with the land developer, Mr. Wavell. Robert doesn’t want a fast buck and to ruin the looks of Downton Abbey, but Mary and Tom understand the need for using the land for financial benefit. Robert loves Downton Abbey and the past. To change the subject, Isobel turns to something that would seem innocent enough, but takes a twist into further conflict.

“How are your Russians getting on?” asks Isobel (Penelope Wilton).

“It’s so sad. They talk about the old days, dances at the winter palace, picnics on the banks of the Neva, but there are holes in their shoes, and they’ve got no money for food,” Rose (Lily James) explains.

Robert then makes a pointed remark to Tom, “This is where Tom says it serves them right.”

Tom defends himself ably enough, “Well, I don’t approve of how things were managed in Russia, but I’m still sorry for people who have to make a new life in a foreign land.”

Mary gracefully ends this little tifffle by commenting, “Honestly, Papa, every time you challenge Tom, you sound much more unreasonable than he is.”

Then Robert next asks him mother about her “old beau” that “Prince Thingummyjig.”

This unsettles his mother Violet (Maggie Smith) who reprimands him by saying that if his father had been alive, he wouldn’t have stood for such a reference.

Robert, we love you, but Lord Grantham you are clueless. Yes, this episode is about love and how hard it is to kill, particularly when lovers meet again. Does love ever really die? And will love be diminished by cluelessness?

Of course, we do know that one unholy lover, rapist Mr. Green (Nigel Harman), is dead. Really dead. Not in the way of a dream or an alternative reality. In Downton Abbey, dead people stay dead. Yet Mr. Green’s legacy to Downton Abbey lives on and grows into a bastardly threat to the happiness of Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and her husband, Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle). While Anna, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and Lady Mary suspect Mr. Bates, the inspectors at Scotland Yard suspect Anna. Yes, Anna. And should her secret disgrace be revealed, she would be ruined and unemployable. This is covered in the special about the manners of Downton Abbey.

Sergeant Willis returns to Downton Abbey because Anna was seen visiting Lord Gillingham’s (Tom Cullen) London flat (to deliver a letter to Gillingham from Mary) and while that can be explained, she then visited Piccadilly, the very place were Mr. Green was killed. Hasn’t Anna suffered enough! Now she’s suffering because of Mary’s indiscretion. The only reason Anna was in London during this episode was to be with Lady Mary. Mary attends a fashion show and who shows up but Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). They dine together and Mary reveals that she’s dumping Gillingham.

Gillingham doesn’t accept that the woman whom he had sex with in Liverpool has decided he’s not right for her. After all, any other woman of their class would have not allowed the grass to grow under the heels of such a man after doing such a thing and the proper thing to do after such in improper occurrence would be to arrange to marry as soon as possible. Mary tells him, “It’s as if  I’ve sort of woken up from a dream.” And yet that doesn’t mean that Matthew isn alive. Downton Abbey isn’t Dallas.

If you’ve been thinking that Violet is a bit to self-righteous, then, as hinted at in the last episode, we learn why. She was once loved by a Russian aristocrat and he has come, perhaps just coincidentally to live in the town near Downton Abbey. Yet is anything in Downton Abbey ever mere coincidence? Violet takes Isobel to visit the Russian aristocratic refugees and sees they are living in desperate poverty. Violet asks about Prince Kuragin’s wife and admits to Isobel that she was once romantically involved with Kuragin, but her late husband reminded her of their own family. Prince Kuragin doesn’t know where his wife is; she had gone into exile before his release from prison.

Is there hope for a bit of romance for Violet?

Violet proves correct about Lord Merton’s (Douglas Reith) interest in Isobel. Lord Merton shows up at Isobel’s place of residence. He cannot get down on one knee due to age, but he assures Isobel that he wants to marry her for love and requests that she not give an answer now, but think about it.

Downstairs,  one wonders what Thomas was thinking. Thomas is searching for answers. Miss. Baxter inadvertently witnesses Thomas treating himself. He’s trying to change, an act of self-hate and desperation. Yet the treatment is making him ill. He looks pale–even for the British, and tired, even for a servant who is usually busy scheming.

Thomas isn’t the only one downstairs who is a bit tired. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) has been searching for answers to what footman is he if he’s the only one. He expressed a desire to be the first footman and now Carson and Mrs. Hughes are giving him all the duties of a first footman and since there are no others, those duties as well. Overworked, he soon decides that he’s not so in love with that title, and the work can now be parceled out.

There are those who are done thinking. Such as Rose’s father, Lord Flintshire (Peter Egan), also known as Shrimpy. He’s come to announce that he plans to divorce his wife. Mary thought this was being hinted at in various letters and now Shrimpy tells Robert as they have a little private time before dinner. Any other time that would have been bombshell enough.

Yet there is “the Battle of the Little Minx,” as Mrs. Hughes dubs it. Cora extended an invitation to Miss Bunting to dine. Miss Bunting is surprised, but Tom is cautiously optimistic.

Tom pleads with Miss Bunting to “try to be nice to him…but you forget one thing…I love them.” By him, he means Robert, his father-in-law.

Lord Grantham is already annoyed that the “salesman,” Mr. Bricker (Richard E. Grant) visits again. Yet just what annoys him? That Mr. Bricker flirts with his dog or that Mr. Bricker seems to value Cora’s opinions about art? Then Robert also must walk a thin line between blood relations and a soon-to-be former in-law (Shrimpy).

At the dining room table, Miss Bunting (Daisy Lewis) manages to embarrass Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) who still is troubled by the lack of recognition for her nephew’s death during the war (due being labeled a coward) and Daisy (Sophie McShera). She has them called to the dining room to prove a point.  Although Robert says that he’s pleased to hear that Miss Bunting’s lessons with Daisy have been successful, Miss Bunting won’t leave it alone.

“Are you, Lord Grantham?…All I’ve proved is that Lord Grantham would like us serfs to say in our allotted place from cradle to grave,” she proudly comments.

Robert loses his temper.

And yet, one can’t entirely fault Robert but this forces Tom to re-consider his attraction to Miss Bunting.

Let’s be fair, being a socialist or someone interested in social reform doesn’t mean one is allowed to be rude at dinner. Miss Bunting put Mrs. Patmore and Daisy on the spot, making both slightly uncomfortable and taking them away from their jobs. She could have made a point more discretely and not assumed that Lord Grantham was such a snob and so heartless–after all, he did marry a non-aristocrat and he has brought Tom into the family. Going to great lengths to embarrass and challenge one’s host is really unforgivable.

Will there be an alienation of affections between Tom and Miss Bunting? What can Mary do to alienate the determined Gillingham? What will Daisy do with her learning? What will Thomas do to alienate himself from his true desires? And will Robert succeed in preserving his beloved Downton Abbey and yet lose the lady whose monetary contributions allowed him to keep it in the first place?

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