So much of life is in the timing, and in Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 5 we are reminded of that as star-crossed lovers litter the landscape.
Some would-be couples’ fates are doomed, but this episode also reveals a few romantic pairings that could happen.
Miss Bunting (Daisy Lewis), the firebrand teacher, has taken an assignment as an elementary teacher elsewhere. Matters are tense between Miss Bunting and Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and she can’t help herself from pushing him. It’s as if the whole world is an itch she must scratch.
Tom, a poor kid, who by happenstance and charm wound up marrying into the family he was serving, asks why she must push him. She wants to know why he doesn’t despise the Granthams.
“I am relieved to know I am not the only socialist left on this earth but maybe we should call it a day before one of us gets hurt,” Tom tells her.
Later in the episode, Daisy (Sophie McShera) implores Tom to not let the teacher go. Miss Bunting stopped by the kitchen to say goodbye to Daisy, and to encourage Daisy to keep up her studies.
Risking the wrath of Carson – not an entirely difficult task, all one need do is exhale wrong – Daisy sneaks upstairs and corners Tom.
“She is leaving tomorrow but I know she loves you,” Daisy hurriedly says. “We are the future; they are the past.”
Tom catches Miss Bunting as she is leaving. It’s pouring, as it so often is in this episode, and he kisses her under the umbrella. She gets in the carriage and either this will be a kiss they both look back on, thinking what if. Or perhaps they will tell their grandchildren about it. For now, however, it is a farewell kiss.
Of course if there is heartache on Downton, one must include Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael). Her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond) visits and asks to see Marigold. Having the two great ladies, in their finery – even their day dresses are handcrafted exquisite articles of clothing – visit the Drewes on their farm infuriates Marjorie Drewe (Emma Lowndes).
“She wants Marigold as her toy to be poked and prodded by every stray guest in the big house and you’ve done this,” Mrs. Drewe snaps at her husband.
Later, Tim Drewe (Andrew Scarborough), who earlier figured out Lady Edith was Marigold’s mother, tells Edith she must stay away. And Rosamund also easily read Mrs. Drewe’s fury.
To be fair, a corpse could have read it. Mrs. Drewe is at the breaking point and can’t even feign politeness for Edith’s interest in her adoptive daughter. Mr. Drewe knows his wife will badger him beyond reason to give up the farm and move far away if lady Edith does not make herself scarce.
Lady Rosamund and her mother, the Dowager Countess, conspire with Edith to enroll Marigold in a boarding school where she could visit her. The girl may be out of nappies, but just. Ah, for the days of preschool boarding school.
Speaking of corpses, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) looks more like one each week. The drugs he’s shooting, prescribed to him by some quack to “cure him” of his homosexuality, are killing him. He has the sweaty gray pallor of a heroin junkie in need of his next fix.
As Thomas tries to keep it together, other members of the staff are trying to keep up appearances. The local police brought an inspector from Scotland Yard to talk with Anna Bates and Lady Mary (Joanne Froggatt and Michelle Dockery). Mary, who would not break a sweat on the witness stand if she were the murderer and found holding a bloody machete, handily dismisses the cops’ questions. Though Anna is her usual sweet self, it is clear that the cops think Anna killed her rapist.
That plot line is a cause of worry among those who know about the rape, but this episode’s deeper plots keep circling back to potential couples. Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) had proposed to Isobel, and they do seem to have much in common even if he is the landed gentry and she does have that annoying American attitude of egalitarianism.
Lady Rose (Lily James) meets a tall, dark and handsome stranger during a storm. Naturally he has terribly good manners – this is 1924 England, after all. Atticus Aldridge (Matt Barber) helps Rose with her packages and walks her to where she volunteers, serving tea to the exiled, impoverished Russians.
Aldridge later visits Rose while volunteering and she tries introducing him to her friends, the exiled royalty. Atticus had told her that his family left Russia, and the exiles instantly know that he’s Jewish because his family fled a pogrom. Being poor and run out of their country has not enlightened some of them, and they spew anti-Semitism.
Rose and Atticus are taken with each other, but he is off to start his career as a London banker. It’s very likely we will be seeing more of him.
Back in the servants’ quarters, there’s a wonderful exchange between Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore, after the cook had asked Carson what to do with an inheritance. A casual conversation with Lord Grantham led Carson to advise Mrs. Patmore to invest in a building company, but she is uncertain she wants to do that.
“Why did you ask him,” Mrs. Hughes says.
“Because he is a man,” Mrs. Patmore responds.
“I am not sure that is a good enough reason,” Mrs. Hughes says.
“Nor am I now, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”
“I wish men worried about our feeling a quarter as much as we worry about theirs.”
The episode’s huge drama is saved for the end. The unctuous art historian Simon Bricker (Richard E. Grant) conjured up another excuse to see the Granthams’ painting.
The earl does not like him much, but then again the earl does not like many people much. The lord has a meeting and will be out. Mary will be out as well. But Cora stands strong on inviting Bricker.
It’s late, and Cora is already in her bedclothes, a lovely brocade robe and someone enters her room. She naturally assumes it’s Baxter, her maid. But, no, it is Bricker. A little scared and extremely surprised, Cora tells him to leave.
Bricker refuses. He knows the lord has not been as kind to his wife as he should. And Lady Grantham is so lovely. The earl’s meeting had ended early and he comes home unexpectedly to find this man in his bedroom. And this after he had surprised his wife in London and found she had dined with Bricker. The lord is enraged and puffs himself off like a diamondback gorilla before a fight.
“I am not here at Lady Grantham’s invitation,” Bricker says.
“Then will you please leave at mine?” Lord Grantham says through clenched teeth.
“Not every man is as blind as you,” Bricker tells him.
That does it. Wham! Grantham decks him. Bricker, a weedy guy, goes down. They struggle. Furnishings are sent flying. Edith comes to the door whens he hears the hubbub. Cora, always a lady – even when her would-be rapist and husband tussle on her bedroom floor – tells her daughter that she and her father were “playing a stupid game and knocked over a lamp.”
The next day Cora watches from a window as Bricker leaves.
At their next party as Carson announces guests, Cora tries making small talk with her husband. Robert ignores her in that stone-faced way only a lord can with those well beneath him. And at this moment in Downton those underlings include his wife.
Courtesy of © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE