“Downton Abbey” is at a turning point and what better way to start it out than with the arrival of Lady Rosamund and a bit of tea. Ladies in hats and no gloves. Rosamund (Samantha Bond) comes with a serious reason: She concerned with Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael). There will be some changes, drastic changes, at least for Downton Abbey.
Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has to apologize to Rosamund. He will be spending the night in Sheffield (a boring town when I was there and doubtlessly not much better in 1924) after attending an officers meeting at which he is the guest of honor.
Rose (Lily James) is there and mentions a nudist colony in Essex which causes Violet to comment about the humidity. Violet may seem stodgy but she did have a rather rash moment during her youth with a dashing Russian.
Downstairs, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and Carson (Jim Carter) are meeting with Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) who was left money a little money. She asks Carson for some advice on what to do with her inheritance, but Mrs. Hughes says, “You need to talk to someone who’s still in the game.” That perturbs Carson but Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore will find a way to sooth him in the end.
Now Lady Rosamund has a trickier problem: Lady Edith’s interest in Marigold. Lady Edith has become a stalker. If we didn’t know she was Marigold’s mother, then we’d think she went off the deep end and was a step away from becoming the crazy cat lady. Lady Edith wants to show off Marigold to Rosamond. Yet Violet wasn’t just spouting off about nudist colonies as being unsuitable for moist environments. She had shrewdly observed something going on between Rosamund and Edith.
Violet will eventually get the truth out of Rosamund, but after Lady Edith’s stalkerish ways have resulted in Mrs. Drewe demanding to Mr. Drewe (Andrew Scarborough) that these visits stop. The ladies confer; they must get Marigold away, perhaps to France where Lady Edith could more freely visit. Edith still doesn’t see the wisdom of either Violet or Rosamund’s arguments.
On the male side of the Crawleys, Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is taking to Tom. If you recall, last episode was highlighted by the Battle of the Minx. Miss Bunting (Daisy Lewis), who had been making lovey-dovey eyes at Tom (Allen Leech), was rude to Robert. I mean, even in an American household in 2015, Miss Bunting would have been considered rude. Why accept an invitation to dine at the table when you hate, yes hate, the host. If you must attend such a function, why attempt to anger him?
Robert is, after all, rather progressive for an aristocrat. He married Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). He is kind to his servants (Remember Mrs. Patmore’s eye surgery?) He accepted Tom into his home after the death of his daughter, Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay). He tells Tom, “You’ve learned both sides of the arguments…don’t make nothing of what you’ve achieved.”
Miss Bunting admits that she was in love with Tom, but since Tom has decided to end it, she has decided to accept another position in another area. She has a lot to learn. She asks him if he doesn’t hate the Crawleys and all they represent.
Tom tells her, “You despise the family, but I think you forget my wife was one of them; my child is one of them; where does that leave me?”
“Don’t you despise them?” Miss Bunting unwisely asks Tom.
“I don’t think in black and white terms any more,” he replies. He does admit that he was “relieved to know I’m not the only socialist left on this earth.” Yes, but hate is never a way to build a society. If Miss Bunting didn’t find Downton Abbey homey, a certain, art historian does, but that leads to another battle, but I am getting ahead of myself.
If Tom’s romance has ended with finality, then another one is about to begin. Rose has too many baskets to get her umbrella up but a fine gentleman comes to her rescue. Do you love how Rose has a cream-colored umbrella in a sea of black umbrellas? Of course, if you were in Japan, that would still be too boring, but this is the UK and Rose is crazy enough. She learns this fine young man, Atticus Aldridge (Matt Barber), also has some Russian in his family and insists that he come and meet her Russian aristocratic refugees. You’d think they would be happy to meet him, but they are not when they realize he is Jewish. “They were not Russian then,” one aristocrat declares, but Rose is charmingly naive (as if anti-Semitism didn’t exist in England–remember Shylock?).
Violet has also decided to meet with the good Doctor Richard Clarkson (David Robb), hoping to push the romance between Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and Lord Merton (Douglas Reith). The doctor asks, “Do you perhaps resent the idea of a change of position for Mrs. Crawley?”
“I’m sorry I do not quite grasp your question; it bewilders me,” she proclaims. Should Isobel marry Lord Merton, she would outrank Violet. Violet asks the doctor does he want Isobel to live “a life devoid of industry and moral worth”? Isobel has still not replied to Lord Merton’s proposal, but with a little push by Violet and the doctor things look promising, but this is Downton Abbey and there’s always a question of class distinctions and then there’s always the danger of a Christmas special surprise.
We haven’t quite forgotten about Mr. Green (Nigel Harman). A constable returns to question both Anna and Lady Mary. This troubles Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle). Remember that Anna (Joanna Froggatt), Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) found a ticket in Mr. Bates’ possession and destroyed it, hoping to prevent Mr. Bates from being under suspicion.
Mrs. Hughes takes time to ask, “Don’t make trouble Mr. Barrow”who is too keen on learning more about the visit of the constable, but it is actually Mr. Barrow (Rob James-Collier) who is in trouble. He looks paler than everyone and is sweating like an animal. Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) asks after him, but Thomas can’t seem to accept kindness.
In case you have forgotten, Anna is under suspicion because she was in London and visited Lord Gillingham’s (Tom Cullen) flat, but that was because of Lady Mary’s affair. They again end up in London and Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden) asks Mary to dine. He has a surprise and asks Mary to behave. Now this might have become a battle of the minxes, but both ladies are too well-mannered. Mary meets Gillingham’s former fiancée, the woman he dumped to pursue her. Apparently, she loves Gillingham, but due to pride, she no longer wants him much to the disappointment of Charles Blake. This is beginning to sound like a Shakespearean comedy–if only the king of the fairies could use a love potion to remedy this situation.
While the ladies had a polite though chilly meeting, things are more heated back at home. Mr. Bricker (Richard E. Grant) returns. He purportedly wants to photograph the painting in question. Cora reminds Robert that to have the painting included in a book would doubtlessly increase its value.
Mr. Bricker tells Cora, ” I’m beginning to find Downton quite homelike.”
Cora is delighted adding, “You’re quite welcome as long as you behave,” but Mr. Bricker does not behave.
Robert has already gone to his meeting and Mary is alone in their bedroom that evening when the door opens. Mary thinks it is her maid, Miss Baxter, but it is Mr. Bricker.
“It’s not your maid; I waited ’til she’d gone,” a besotted Mr. Bricker explains. ‘
Cora is not receptive. “Mr. Bricker I ‘ve asked you twice now…”
Mr. Bricker is blinded by his passion, “You know things have changed now, I feel it; I know you do,” he tells Cora. Mr. Bricker can appreciate art and tell you what it means, but he can’t look at a real person and tell you what she means by her body language and her actual words. Even in 1924, no still means no and sometimes, men think no means yes.
Before Cora can convince Mr. Bricker to leave her room, Robert returns. Instead of being either embarrassed or ashamed, Bricker blathers on about how Robert fails to appreciate Cora. Robert doesn’t challenge him to a duel, one guesses because there’s no honor in being found in one’s bedroom with one’s wife. That’s when Robert Crawley becomes Robert Brawley. Do you think Robert was justified or does he need a bit of anger management counseling.
In the aftermath of the Bricker Crawley Brawl, Violet notices at the cocktail party that Robert is a bit frosty toward Cora. Violet like Mrs. Hughes is instrumental in smoothing out the relationships between the men, always thinking about their feelings. You must have guessed that Mrs. Hughes are Carson are in their own way getting closer and that changes are in store for them as well.
We will just have to wait for that late blossoming romance of Carson and Mrs. Hughes to bloom as well as for Violet to defrost Robert’s coolness toward Cora.