Downton Abbey: Season 5, Ep. 8: “What a Palaver!”

What a palaver! Tom says during a momentary lull at the latest ruined dinner party. This particular one is destroyed by Rose’s mum, Sour Sue, who, in the midst of her divorce from ol’ Squishy, has missed out on so many recent terrible dinners. Sour Sue decided that if no one else was going to say awful things at the table, then it might as well be her, since no one likes her anyway.

Apparently the British are only repressed when two or fewer people are in the room. A proper Brit refuses to even look at her husband in private, as that would be too indiscreet. No, the best thing to do is wait until you’re gathered around the table with the entire family, a complement of servants, and several near-strangers, then — one or two courses into an elaborate meal that cost 150 pounds a head factoring in food and labor — announce to all and sundry that you never did like your husband much. Or Jews for that matter. And did I mention? The host, as a person, pretty much makes me want to puke in my soup here. And his politics! His politics make me positively want to rip the hand-sewn beads right off my dress and scatter them around the room just before poking him in the eye with my oyster fork. Okay now, back to the soup, everybody! Nothing to see here! What a palaver!

Sour Sue preparing remarks for the dinner table. Topics for discussion  include anti-semitism, divorce, blackmail, poverty, and my intense dislike for my daughter.

Sour Sue preparing remarks for the dinner table. Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to: anti-semitism, divorce, blackmail, poverty, and intense dislike for one’s own child.

Love is in the Air

The show opens with the household in a flurry over the upcoming nuptials of Rose and Atticus. I had no idea what was happening for roughly the first twenty minutes, since the last we saw R & A they were ancillary to the real action, which took place at the last disastrous dinner party with Larry and Gary Merton. But here is Rose, suddenly taking center stage with a minimum of pre-wedding plot lines — stories which I fully expected to go on for years and years. So you can imagine my confusion (or maybe you don’t have to imagine it) when this episode opens with everyone running around the kitchen getting ready for a wedding. Whose wedding? I thought. But then I was distracted by the visual splendor of the elaborate wedding cake being made with great care by Daisy, who is not only a scholar, a budding farmer-socialist and a first-rate Undercook, but a sort of genius artist when it comes to sculpting roses made of icing. This particular cake is so special, it needs to be made over several days. It can only be crafted at Downton, where Mrs. Patmore and Daisy Undercook keep the family’s collection of giant cake pans, after which it will be transported down to London in an open-air motor car with limited shock absorbency, a hot, shaky, coal-smoke bellowing train for several hours, then another motor car, placed in the gentle hands of a taxi driver — watch the delicate icing roses, sir! — then hurried down to the bowels of the London house to clog up kitchen counter space for several more days in anticipation of a wedding reception, which will take place at some point in the future. The cake will taste like cardboard and the roses will have been crushed several times over, but at least it is there, on the table, towering over the proceedings like the 21st century anomaly it is.

In other news from the realm of Romantic Love, Igor Ivanovitch propositions Granny, who stares at him, her eyes welling with tears from the shock of having to play in this ridiculous scene at her age. Isobel and Lord Merton are on the rocks. She is seriously considering ditching him after meeting his awful sons Larry and Gary and contemplating spending every Christmas and summer weekends with them for the rest of her life. She may not have many years left, but even a single Christmas with the boys is enough to put her off the whole idea of an otherwise blissful union.

Cora and Lord G are back in love, which is great. In general Lord G. aka Old Donk is his patriarchal antiquated self once more, unapologetically running things. It’s a relief for all of us, as someone needs to take charge of this mess, and it might as well be the man withdrawing the money from the family trust.

Mary is still unattached, though she sees Tony Foyle at Rose’s wedding reception, where for some reason Mary is dressed a gray satin sailor suit. She said congrats to Tony Foyle and his lady, Lady Mabel Finchley Fox Brown nearly-Foyle, for getting back together and escaping disaster. I got what I wanted from you, Tony, she told him. Indeed you did! Tony answered before wisely saying he had learned that one should not “mess with Mary.” Oh Tony! Edith could have told you that ages ago.

Mary's sailor suit at Rose's wedding reception. Bon voyage Mary!

Mary’s sailor suit at Rose’s wedding reception. Bon voyage Iron Mary!

“What was that about?”

…thus saith the great Carson after the cops left Downton after one of their many, many brief interviews with the Bates-es. Indeed, what was that about? In this episode we finally discover what it was all about. After months and months of investigating hearsay, lots of red herrings that involve dark looks, whispered conversations, and a burned train ticket, it turns out that it is about the female Bates. The cops reluctantly peg her as Green’s murderer. I say reluctantly, because doing so meant the end of day trips to Yorkshire for five minutes of detective work, tops. The rest of the detectives’ many Yorkshire trip was spent at ice cream shops, arcades, and long walks in the countryside.

There is no explanation for this particular plot line, nor is none needed, because nobody cares. Literally, nobody cares. We don’t care who killed Mr. Green, though I would prefer that it not be one of the Bates-es, as far as it goes. The thought of the murderer being Anna is absurd. Absurd enough to rouse Iron Mary into entering the kitchen in her satin dressing gown and protest the loss of her maid. But who will hide my baby-stopper package and reassure me that I am always right? Mary asked the man from Scotland Yard, her eyebrows meeting her hairline, her face nearly splitting in half in the process. I don’t give a ‘oot! The detective snarled back. And Carson smiled gravely at Mary and bowed. I will do it m’lady. It will give us a chance to talk as you’ve ignored me since Season 4 and I miss our little chats. All the other servants just stand around looking mildly interested as Anna is carted off by the cops. Top servants getting arrested for murder? Just another day at Downton. At the close of the episode, the matter is not yet resolved, and contemplating the Bates-es endless woes and alternating prison stints brings Mrs. Hughes to tears. I feel ya, Mrs. H. This whole plot line makes me want to cry too.

More Tears

The other Downton stalwart, Mrs. Patmore, also weeps in this episode. In her case it is because Daisy Undercook is going away and her nephew, the desserter, is still not gonna be on the War Memorial. But wait! Daisy is not going away and Lord G gave her nephew his own War Memorial! She dries her tears and walks back to Downton with Daisy, Mr. Mason between them. I probably speak for many viewers when I say that it would be nice to see Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore get married and raise Daisy as their very own child.

After last week’s absence, the Oldest Lady’s Maid in the World is back, big time. Apparently and disappointingly (as I was prepared for her to be my new favorite character) Spratt’s lack of regard for her is well-deserved. With virtually no indication that she’s a woman of dissipate habits who likes to run the occasional con at seedy underground clubs, we learn that she’s a woman of dissipate habits who likes to run the occasional con at seedy underground clubs. She ropes the latest in a long line of bewildered young footmen into her shenanigans and Skulking Barrow, of all people, saves the day for the new footman. Yes, the very same Skulking Barrow who has been conned himself at least three times throughout the run of the show, the most recent being just the other week when he used his own hard-earned money for a mail-order saline solution cure-all. But apparently he’s savvy now, and the New Footman is in the Skulk’s debt, which is a very bad place for anyone to be. Especially a new footman.

No More Tears

Marigold is back among her own kind, the stink of the Pigman family scoured off by not one, but two nannies. As a result Poor Edith is no longer an object of pity; she is now rich in publishing houses and childcare. After the War Memorial ceremony Old Donk watches Edith and Marigold together and finally puts one and one together. He stares at Marigold, the recognition dawning in his eyes as he realizes that the baby looks a great deal, nearly exactly like, really, that chap Mr. Griegson. For a minute there I thought that this recognition dawned because Lord G realized that Marigold resembled Edith, who Lord G would be familiar with as he presumably saw a great deal of her as a baby. But no, in a crazy unexpected plot twist Lord G figures out that Marigold is Mr. Griegson’s daughter by staring at the baby and seeing a middle-aged newspaper publisher in her visage. Lord G asks Cora if it’s true as they walk back to Downton from the village. Yes, she says, Marigold is baby Griegson. Lord G nods sagely. I thought as much, he says. Can’t get much past this old goat! he adds, tapping the side of his nose with one gloved finger.

But you do realize, darling, that this means that the baby is also Edith’s daughter, right? Cora asks him, her blue eyes imploring him to understand. Lord G pauses in mid-stride. Say what? He had reconciled himself to having Griegson’s kid in the house, but Edith’s? After considering for a moment Lord G nods again, acquiescent. So be it. It is sort of splendid, really, to discover out of nowhere that one has another grandchild. For being someone so reportedly old-fashioned, Lord G sure is a pushover. In the end he takes everything as it comes, whatever it may be. And he takes it all in stride: dead lovers, living lovers, illegitimate babies, Jewish and Irish socialist in-laws, divorced cousins, incarcerated servants. Whatever. Water under the bridge and so forth. The one thing he will not stand for, that he cannot allow, however, is having that creature, Miz Bunting, seated at his dinner table. That, he cannot and will not bear.

Sighting of the Dependents

The children were on full display at least twice, and it was a banner week. We were able to take several long ganders at the kids and even saw Old Donk playing a board game with Sybbie in a cozy multi-generational scene. Looking around the room, it occurred to me that Tom, Mary and Edith are zero for three when it comes to the spousal mortality rate. Atticus better watch out.

Speaking of death, Isis is no more, though a headstone commemorating her life of service — which included listening to around 10,000 hours of fruitless conversation as she lay on the floor near the family’s set of couches — is in the works. Lord G seemed surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing and viewers were spared a scene, though I actually would have preferred a little something more to honor the greatest character the show has yet produced.

Next Week

Don’t miss next week, when Rose and Atticus get robbed in Cancun, Isis returns from the grave to bite Sour Sue in the face, Edith discovers Marigold slopping pigs for old times sake, Mary gets her bob trimmed, Lord G — in the flush of his rediscovered manhood — goes to the hardware store in Ripon, loads up on supplies, and repairs the cottages in the village himself, Cora brings lemonade to him at the work site using the unsold della Francesca as a tray just to spite her old admirer Lord Brickface, Mrs. Patmore starts a line of wedding cakes called DaisyCakes, Daisy starts a line of edible roses called Roses by Daisy, and Tom finally shuts up about moving to America and just does it already,

2 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Season 5, Ep. 8: “What a Palaver!”

  1. I think Ms. Baxter killed Greene. Maybe he was the fellow who forced her into her thieving ways at her last gig…
    I was kind of hoping for Rose to have some big shindig for her wedding.
    If the Russian doesn’t get a hair cut I don’t believe the Dowager can take him on. That hair is too much…

    • The hair needs its own show! Yes, Rose’s wedding ended up being a non-event. I really thought the proceedings leading up to it would take much longer!

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