Downton Abbey, Season 5, Ep. 4: Conscious Uncoupling

Miz Bunting

My politics demand that I destroy you. But in the meantime, thank you for dinner. Source: UK Guardian

This particular episode was all about the status of the love lives of our Downton pals. People were breaking up and making up all over the place, but mostly breaking up.

Proposal Made, Proposal Rejected

Among the Upstairs crowd, Lord Muckity-Muck proposed marriage to Isobel Crawley, commoner. In the process, he confessed to Isobel that he was in love with her. She was as shocked as we were. Me? Really? You’re in love with me? We know Izzy, it’s hard to believe, but you do have a way of growing on people, what with your insistent goodness. Maybe he wants to amuse himself with your bleeding heart antics; he can watch you dash hither and yon from behind his newspaper and chuckle at how much more fun you are than that other lady the Dowager was trying to set him up with. She might have been just the thing for Lord Muckity-Muck, class-wise, but would have made him sit through so many long dinner parties. There’s no chance of that with Isobel, who never met a dinner party she didn’t try to ruin. That is, until Miz Bunting came along and made Isobel look like an amateur in class warfare.

Also on the proposed-marriage front, Mary, the Iron Unmaiden, decided to end things with Lord G the Younger, but he was having none of it, since he (along with Granny Grantham) understands their situation perfectly, even if Mary doesn’t: they must get married, post-haste, or what happened in Liverpool ain’t gonna stay in Liverpool. Dark things were hinted at in Lord G the Younger’s visage after Mary tried to break up with him, things that Mary, in her porcelain density, seems to have missed. Hey Mary, Lord G the Younger isn’t going to take your walking away from him lying down, nor is he gonna stand for your lying down with him then walking away. Better round up Anna Porterhouse-Watership-Down and get her to cover for you about that so-called sketching trip you took together (while you’re at it, start rounding up some sketches) because things are gonna get real here. After all, you have a reputation to protect (again). Besides, you need to thoroughly clear the decks for Charles Blake, who for some reason was at a ladies fashion show, giving you lingering looks. One bright spot having to do with Lady Mary in this episode was meeting her old nemesis, Lady Mabel Lane-Fox-Finchley-Brown. Lady Mabel seemed like a fascinating, warm-blooded creature. I wish this show was about her.

Break-ups and Blank Checks

Rose’s pa, Squishy, shows up, and she and her pa have a heart-to-heart on one of the couches. Ol’ Squishy is in Yorkshire visiting his (soon-to-be former) cousin-in-laws at Downton, where Rose has been boarded lo, these many seasons. “Your mother and I have made rather a mess of things”, ol’ Squishy-Shrimpy gently tells Rose, “No help for it but to go through a painful divorce that will crush our finances and professional and social prospects, tut tut.”

“Oh daddy! Rose answers, “Enough about you! Let’s talk about me, and how I want to marry for love! In which case, just so you know, and please don’t tell mummy, but I might have to get married a lot, because I love a lot of people!”

“Okay”, her pa says, “Here’s a blank check for love. Write it out for a billion pounds if you wish, since it’s not real. But whatever you do in life, darling, please don’t come live with me. Downton is the best place for you. Promise me. Promise me that you’ll never, ever come live me. Will you promise me that, my darling Rose?” Rose readily agrees, since she wasn’t listening anyway — too busy dreaming of the possibilities of her blank love check. No more judgment from Squishy and Mummy. She can frolic with as many unsuitable men she can find! Eventually, one of them will agree to marry her, and it will be for love!

From Bad to Worse

Poor Edith is reduced to lurking in the village bushes to catch a glimpse of Baby Marigold and to hear straight from the Pigman’s mouth that Mrs. Pigman thinks Edith is unsettling to Marigold. We hear ya, Mrs. Pigman. Edith is nothing if not unsettling. So unsettling that Mrs. Pigman closes the door in her face rather than give her so much as a cup of tea. In other bad news, Edith’s long-lost feller, the newspaperman, might have had an altercation with some Brownshirts over in Germany, which is why he disappeared from her life. At least he isn’t a Nazi! In such dark times, it is better to be fighting a Brownshirt than to be a Brownshirt. In telling Lord G the Elder aka Old Donk this news, Poor Edith, her eyes as brown and liquid as a mud puddle, looked like she was nearly at the edge of sanity as she sat on the couch opposite Old Donk’s couch. Old Donk came through for her this time around, recalling his filial duties and actually leaning forward on his couch to comfort Poor Edith. It was a sight to behold. Edith is so love-starved that Isobel needs to stop messing around with Russian refugees and insulin and start a foundation for Edith. The Lady Edith’s Aid Society, where people can just hug her and let her hold their babies for an afternoon.

The situation of Cora, Lady G, went from bad to worse this week as Lord G disses her yet again, leaving her with nothing to do but sit on the couch and stew while he discusses Important Things over on the other couch with Tom and Mary. Cora invited Lord Brickface, Art Expert, back to the house so they could simper in tandem at the dinner table and in the Second Library where a priceless collection is free for the taking. This time Lord G the Elder is getting wise to the game and Brickface is getting jumpy. How much longer until he steals the painting? I give it at least one more episode. We will have to see Cora thoroughly disenchanted and humiliated before this plot line runs its course. How I miss the old days, when we didn’t have to watch Cora flirt.

And of course, in the bad-to-worse category, there was Miz Bunting. Like a deep-throated munchkin straight out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, her presence alone is enough to put any proceeding off balance, let alone a dinner party. For someone who hates aristocrats so much, she sure loves eating their food, showing up for some grub yet again. But this time she behaved so spectacularly awfully at the dinner table that Lord G the Elder sprang up in a rage before throwing down his napkin — his napkin — and storming off. I’ve never been so proud of him. If anybody needs to be jailed for her politics, it is Miz Bunting. Why the rest of the family placidly accepts this strange little creature at the table, staring at her dully as she rants, their brains apparently clouded by the onset of gout, is a genuine mystery. Well, except for Mary, who came through on the anti-Miz Bunting front pretty admirably at dinner. I hope Tom dusts off his chauffeur cap, gets in one of the family automobiles and runs over Miz Bunting as she hoofs it back to the village. In so doing Daisy might lose a teacher, but then, she was getting too smart for her own good anyway. Never in the history of learnin’ has there been a student such as Daisy Undercook. In the span of a few short weeks she’s gone from learning figures to facts to fiction. She’s like an education major’s fantasy of what teaching will be like. The student, her face tipped upward toward the brilliance of the teacher’s intellect, drinks in knowledge like a flower experiencing photosynthesis. The student leaps from concept to concept until she arrives at the apex of education: activism. What good is intellectual pursuit, really, if it doesn’t eventually lead to guillotining rich people?

Baxter, Bates, Bates, Barrow & Molesley

No, it’s not the name of a law firm. I only wish it was, because that would be so interesting! No, it’s the downstairs fivesome and their various doings. Baxter sees Barrow in full opiate-withdrawal mode, Barrow yells at Baxter and tells her to get her own magazine to read. Baxter stares at him compassionately. Bates and Bates have a talk about Picadilly, a conversation layered with meaning and references obscured by the fact that whatever they’re referring to happened in another season, and there’s no way I’m re-watching Season 4 to figure out what Bates and Bates are murmuring about.

The policeman shows up again at Downton, making further inquiries about the potential murder of the Most Important Valet in All of England. It’s quite remarkable, the resources devoted to discovering who killed Mr. Green. Maybe he was secretly the Prime Minister’s valet or adopted son or something. He must be someone important, since the possible, potential, slight chance that he might have been killed based on zero evidence demands such close attention. In this episode we learn that while one Bates might not have killed Mr. Green, the other Bates might have, which is about as likely as Isis killing Mr. Green, so thanks for wasting our time yet again, Downton Abbey. The thing is, nobody much cares which one of these yahoos actually killed Mr. Green. Not only are we happy to see Mr. Green dead, any one of these people could go to prison for his murder and the viewer’s only reaction would be to yawn and head into the kitchen for more popcorn. Well, if it turns out Mrs. Hughes killed Mr. Green, I might shed a tear, for the loss of Mrs. Hughes’ moral compass would be more than I could bear.

Finally, there is Molesley. No longer distracted by his efforts to woo Baxter, he is free to be our comic relief again. This would be great, if only his scenes were funny. Instead we just feel bad, watching boot-black haired Molesley try so hard to be a very good First Footman, when all along Carson is thwarting his best efforts, apparently. Because there is Carson, grinning into his wine candle after Molesley politely declines to do four times the work he used to do and ten times as much work as everyone else. Ha ha! Got ya Molesley! That’ll teach you to be ambitious!

Glimpsing the Dependents

Children sighting: George 1, Sybbie 1, Marigold, 1

Isis sighting: 3, though every time Isis shows up she looks like a different dog than the time before, so it’s hard to tell what’s going on with that. The same is true of the kids, for that matter.

Russian Refugee sighting: 1. Extra points for a glimpse of Prince Thing-a-ma-jig’s (as Lord G called him) glorious mane of white hair.

Don’t miss next week’s episode, when Poor Edith will offer to slop the pigs if only Mrs. Pigman will allow her to stare at Marigold through the kitchen window for a few minutes a day, Daisy Undercook refuses to peel another potato or crack another egg without a union rep present, Barrow admits that marijuina is a gateway drug, Lord G the Elder tells Brickface he is welcome to Cora now that she talks so much, and Tom agrees to marry Miz Bunting on the condition that she wear the pants in the family.

3 thoughts on “Downton Abbey, Season 5, Ep. 4: Conscious Uncoupling

  1. You are a wonder Sarah Kelly a women for all seasons. I’m chuckling away on this snowy day. I don’t even need to watch the last episode which I missed die to super bowl. How bout that Brotish Baking Show? You could do wonders with that. How do the British end up in Monty Python like situations. South fun 👍🙋

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