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Downton Abbey: Season Five, Episode Six

“Remember, harsh reality is always better than false hope.”

Reality, harsh or not, is a combination of the things we can’t control that life throws at us plus the choices we make. As we live our lives day to day, the choices become much more important than the aspects we can’t control.

Edith and Thomas are two sides of this coin. Thomas’s distress is not fundamentally of his own choosing. He did not wake up one morning and decide to become gay. In that time, I am sure this is something he has been struggling with all his life.

His choice, however, was to seek treatment, to find a cure. Of course there is no cure, but the fact that he was willing to spend “a lot of money” on the vague hope of one shows us just how desperate he is. The best choice he has made in quite a while was to go to Baxter for help.

This woman continually surprises me with her generosity of spirit. She knows that Thomas has written that letter to the police; she helps him anyway. The gentle, kind things she says to him as they walk back from Dr. Clarkson’s surgery made me cry. Thomas can be a horrible person, but then he shows us just how much pain he is really in. Remember how he cried when Sybil died? This is a man who is hiding a huge amount under all that unpleasantness. And, all hail Baxter for seeing it. Maybe, it’s because she knew him when he was younger? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. She is the friend that Thomas has been looking for as long as we have known him.

Edith, on the other hand, has no one to blame for all her unhappiness but herself. She chose to sleep with Gregson; she chose to have the baby; she chose to take Marigold from Switzerland; she chose the Drewes to raise her child. While I am sorry that she has learned that Gregson is dead (did anyone really believe he was still alive?), her actions upon hearing the news are simply horrible.

As Cora points out to her, the rest of the family is not grieving because they barely knew the man and they haven’t seen him in over a year. I do believe that the family may have been a bit more supportive (more on Mary below), but Edith’s depression has gone on long enough. She needs to find a way to move on. It seems to me that the publishing company is the perfect way to do so. Pick yourself up and go to work. Believe me; it's effective.

But, no. She yanks Marigold from her “mother’s” arms in a scene that left me shaken. Mrs. Drewe’s grief was terrible to witness. Not to mention, she has taken Marigold from the only family she has ever known. The pure selfishness of this act is breathtaking. Edith’s choices continue to be all about Edith. As a mother, one would hope her choices would be much more about her child. I’m not sure how we are meant to forgive Edith for this act. I’m not sure I even want to try.

Speaking of unforgivable, Mary, for some reason not revealed to us, has reverted back to the horrible person she was in season one. From the absolutely cruel way she spoke to Edith, to the way she acted with Tony and Mabel, I wanted to smack her. I genuinely dislike this aspect of Mary’s personality and wouldn’t mind if we never see it again.

I have avoided the whole Mr. Green thing in my main review all season. This week, I can’t. Didn’t I tell you all that Bates would discover the “cunning piece of equipment?” Didn’t I say that if Bates and Anna would just talk to each other everything would end up all right? As much as I hate this story, I loved the scene in the cottage between the two of them. There was so much honesty; so much hurt pride; so much love, that it felt incredibly real. These two were my favorite couple for the first two seasons; now, I remember why.

Lady Violet has always faced reality head on, even when she doesn’t want to. Her scene with Prince Kuragin moved me to tears. In those few moments, we learned more about Lady Violet than we ever have. We learned that she was probably in love with Kuragin, she most definitely slept with him, yet left him to return to England with a husband she didn’t love and who didn’t make her happy. The person she is snapped into sharp focus as she said, “You do know me, Igor. That I must concede.” The implication is clear; no one else really does.

The final scene was telling as well. Lady Violet goes to the farm and learns the truth. As she leaves, the look of hurt and loss on her face brought tears to my eyes again.

After a rather plodding five episode start, this one was rather wonderful. More, please.

Bits and Bobs:

— It’s official. Julian Fellowes has announced that next season will be the last. As much as I love this show, it’s time for it to go. I always think it’s a good idea when shows leave on a high. Hopefully, eight more episodes and a Christmas special will allow Fellowes to wrap up everyone’s story satisfactorily.

— Spratt and Denker’s sniping at each other was silly.

— As soon as Molesley said he wanted to be a teacher, I smiled. That fits him somehow. His reality, of course, is that his family was poor and he had to leave school to help. He hasn’t given up on his dreams, however. His offer to help Daisy was wonderfully sweet.

— The hairdresser with the fake French accent made me laugh out loud. “Most of them look like bald monkeys.”

— I love that Sybbie calls her grandfather ‘Donk.’

— I’m pretty sure that Carson’s business proposal was a marriage proposal.

Well Said:

Lady Violet: “I hope your standards are not so high as to prevent you remaining in my employment, Denker.”

Mrs. Patmore: “This is the olive branch, I suppose.”
Carson: “If it’s too much trouble...”
Mrs. Patmore: “No, no, no. You can buy the tea.”

Kuragin: “I wanted you from the moment I first saw you. More than mortal man ever wanted woman.”
Lady Violet: “That is an historical detail.”
Kuragin: “Nonsense. If Irina were dead, I would ask you to run away with me now.”
Lady Violet: “You can’t run away when there’s no one left to run away from.”

Cora: “If you can honestly say you have never let a flirtation get out of hand since we married, if you have never given a woman the wrong impression, then by all means, stay away. Otherwise, I expect you back in my room tonight.”

Dr. Clarkson: “The purpose of which was?”
Thomas: “To change me. To make me more like other people. Other men.”

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.


  1. I've been re-watching previous seasons of Downton (since I introduced a friend to the series over Christmas), and I just saw Mathew's farewell *sob*
    Have seen the next two seasons, it was particularly interesting to hear Mary tell him she hopes she's always your Mary Crawley and not Edith's Mary Crawley. Just another show of how Mathew changed her life for the better. But to be honest, even with Mathew around she was always barely civil to Edith!

    As for Tony and Mabel, I saw this episode months ago so I don't remember the details. But isn't she (Mary) doing it on purpose to push Tony into Mabel's arms?

  2. I actually thought Edith's actions were understandable. If Mrs. Drewe hadn't decided to shut Edith out completely, if Mr. Drewe had simply told his wife the truth, I don't think Edith would have done what she did with Marigold. Being told she could never see her baby again right before confirmation that her lover had died after all was just too much for her.

    So the confirmation that Bates didn't kill Green probably won't make a difference if they don't find that train ticket. Who has it? I've completely forgotten. Did Barrow take it?

    1. They burned the ticket, thinking that it would be incriminating.

  3. Cris -- Mary says that what she is doing is to help Mabel and Tony "walk into the sunset," but she's going about it in an odd way. At the beginning of the episode, she asks Anna if she is too dowdy because she wants "them to know what they've given up." Later, she tells Mabel that she "doesn't want to make it too easy for [Tony]." Mary is in her mid-thirties and a widow. It's time to get over the fact that she was once the belle of the county.

    Billie -- Mrs. Hughes found the ticket and gave it to Mary who threw it into the fire. To be fair, they both thought they were helping Anna.

    I see your point about Edith, but I believe what she did is terrible. As desperate as she may have felt, the things that were happening were all down to her choices. The choice she has made now has broken Mrs. Drewe's heart (whose only crime was raising a child not her own) and taken Marigold from the only family she has known. Somehow, ice cream in a hotel room doesn't seem like adequate compensation to me.

  4. I started watching the series a couple of months ago...I was hooked and have been binge watching until catching up. I agree with your criticism of Edith. I find her handling of the baby thing so reprehensible that I cannot empathisize with her. Her choices have been terrible from the beginning. Mary is often a pouty child who is in constant need of attention who bullies and snipes at Edith simply because she can. Neither Cora nor Robert and Not Lady Violet either have done much that I can see to stop this. Tom, sensible as he is, and the only one who seems to see things clearly might be able to do something. My favorite character is Tom (apart from Lady Violet and Isobel who of course are magnificent) He just strikes me as much more the true gemtleman than Robert so far.

  5. I think Baxter acts generously to Barrow but in large part because she understands what it’s like to need forgiveness and understanding. She is a class act. But I still say she’s a boring replacement for O’Brien. She mostly serves as a catalyst to move the Barrow and Moseley characters forward and she does do that well. But she just doesn’t make much of an impression by herself so the scenes that focus on her are mostly tedious.

  6. Also, I agree with Chris about Edith. On the one hand, her pain over being kept apart from her child is visceral. But the misery she puts this farming through is just unforgivable. And she never once apologizes or even seems to feel the slightest bit of remorse. She tramples all over Mrs. Drewe in much the same way she trampled over that other farming wife back in season 2.


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