In Liverpool, Mary leaves the Sex Vacation telling Tony, “We’ll talk soon.” Oh, wow. Cold. Next thing you know she’s sending him a text message saying, “You’re really great! It’s not you, it’s me! Timing is just really bad right now! :)”
From across the street, the Dowager Countess' Generic Butler spots them as they are leaving the hotel. Oooooh. There you go. He's going to blow this Sex Vacation secret wide open! Another Beginner’s Downton Tip: If there is a secret, a minimum of two people will discover it almost immediately. Julian Fellows cannot stand a secret to remain secret for longer than one scene.
At Violet’s house, Violet is mean girling Isobel as hard as she can: “Oh, what is the latest from your aging Romeo?” she asks. To explain what just happened in the last scene, Isobel asks where her butler Sprat is (he didn’t open the door!) and Violet says he’s in Liverpool.
Downstairs, Carson engages with the kindly police man who is definitely about to take Downton down re: the Bates keeps murdering people situation.
In the library, Edith pulls a very Mary-like sneak attack on Mary and says, “Where are [your sketches] anyway? Can’t we see them?” Luckily, no one ever listens to Edith so no one notices. Also, they are too busy listening to Old Man Donk yell about a new thing he just discovered he hates: “I won’t have 50 ugly modern houses built over a field of mine!” Babies George and Sibby are brought into the library to make Edith sad.
Downstairs, Rachel (Hughes) lies to Ross (Carson) about Anna’s Rapist. Oh no! They should totally be telling each other everything! Alone, they are fingers, but together they make a fist!
Patmore pulls Hughes into a room and explains that this war memorial plot isn’t going away any time soon and she wants her deserter nephew’s name on the Downton memorial.
At Violet’s, her Generic Butler gets super coy with his gossip, but only holds on to it for all of 20 seconds before spilling the beans that Mary was in Liverpool having sex. Violet lies her face off to Generic Butler to keep Mary untarnished for as long as possible. Good luck with that, Dowager.
Downstairs, Anna and Hughes think about starting a weekly serialized podcast to find out the truth about where Bates was during those 15 minutes after school.
In the drawing room, Cora sets up a trip to London with the Art Guy, which Donk conveniently cannot attend. Mary gets a phone call from her grandmother because she’s in big trouble, and Rose is getting ready to bring her Russian refugees, who are actually like deposed royalty, to Downton. Rose, such a humanitarian!
Downstairs at the dinner table, Thomas the Liar lies about his phone calls and pretends they are all about his sick father. As if Thomas has a father and wasn’t just hatched full grown from an evil egg! Anna whispers to Bates something about running away and Daisy stops to talk about how she’s thinking of becoming a physicist now that she’s sooooo good at math and Patmore yells: “That’s enough, Daisy! Come and carry the spotted dick!” (Sorry. That wasn’t that important; I just really wanted to type “spotted dick”).
Upstairs, Cora demands answers from Baxter the Honest and Noble Thief. Baxter leaves and Cora starts speaking romantically about the war and a time when she felt useful. She’s clearly trying to communicate with Donk about how she wants to be at least a little involved in things, but he doesn't think it's a woman's place to ask questions or know information or do things. When she asks him about the 50 ugly modern houses, he says: “Nothing to trouble you with.” You know who I bet is about to allow Cora to "trouble with" things? The Art Guy.
In Mary’s room, Mary pawns the prophylactic off on Anna. Um, why not just throw it away if it’s so dangerous? I’ll tell you why: the plot! Anna suggests that helping Mary have premarital sex is causing her to be punished by God, who is now running the police investigation of the Rapist’s death.
In the hall, Bates interrogates Anna about the prophylactic, which is now in her pocket.
Downstairs, Carson and Hughes argue about Patmore's deserter nephew. Ugh, these two. On again off again on again off again.
Outside, Baxter and Molesley talk about how Baxter can deal with the ultimatum from Cora regarding the circumstances of her great jewel heist.
Downstairs, the turmoil in the Carson/Hughes relationship ripples, causing confusion and sadness among the staff (Patmore runs off in tears, while Daisy can’t decide what they are trying to say about whether she can or cannot take an exam).
Outside, Donk says he’s planning on heading to London to surprise Cora. You know that’s not going to end well.
Downstairs, the policeman is back and apparently now knows who Bates is. Maybe he showed up on a list of Known-Criminals in the Abbey?
At Violet’s, Mary is completely caught re: her Sex Vacation and so must sit through a lecture from her Granny.
In London, Baxter the Angel finally admits the cause of her thievery. She was basically in an abusive relationship and tricked into it. Obviously.
Speaking of criminals, downstairs, Bates gets interrogated by the policeman. Bates doesn’t seem worried about this. Sociopath.
In London, Cora gazes at art and the Art Guy gazes at her.
At the Baby Watcher’s house, Edith has apparently kidnapped Marigold, as would anyone. Well, okay, she hasn’t actually kidnapped Marigold, she’s just taken her to see some chickens, but the Baby Watcher’s Wife is not impressed. Seriously, just tell this lady Marigold is the fruit of Edith’s loins! One theme of this episode: keeping unimportant secrets from your significant other (and yes, I'm including Hughes and Carson here, as well as Anna and Bates).
In London, there's more phone news: for some reason, Cora can’t get through to Rosamund to tell her she’s about to have a tarnishing dinner with the Art Guy. The Art Guy is laying it on thick, complimenting Cora’s outfit and telling her she “has an instinct” for art. Yeah, buddy, we all know exactly what it sounds like when an art guy is trying to get into a pretty lady’s underthings.
Downstairs, Hughes and Mary discuss the Bates Murder Timeline. Yes, he visited a shoe shop right before it opened, but what about Best Buy? And was there a pay phone there?
On the streets of London, Cora admits that she’s Jewish to the Art Guy. Did we know this already? She tells her origin story, which is basically the plot from the song “Fancy” except that, instead of an impoverished Southern shack, Cora came from an upper middle class Jewish family in New York and, instead of a sugar daddy-type john, Cora got Donk. The Art Guy puts the moves on Cora as passively as humanly possible and she gently rebuffs him in a classy lady way.
When she gets backs to Rosamund’s, Donk is there in a suit and he’s not stoked because: “I traveled to London in order to give my wife a treat, only to find she’s out dining with another man.” Oh geeeeeez. He then goes on to tell Cora that the Art Guy couldn’t possibly care about her stupid female opinions. Yes, okay, maybe you’re a teeny tiny bit right, Donk, but you are also a stupid jerk. I hope Cora leaves you for the Art Guy. I hope Isis, the dog, leaves you for the Art Guy too.
Speaking of stupid jerks, back at Downton, Mary throws in an unnecessary jab at Edith when Branson asks if Edith seems a bit distracted to her: “I’m not sure I’d notice.” Dude, Edith is your last remaining sister! Why do you hate her so so much? The Pamuk thing should be water under the bridge by now!
But it turns out they are all distracted. When Branson says, “It can be hard to know what to do for the best--you don’t want to hurt people, but you may have to,” Mary says: “I know exactly what you mean.” Oh snap. Mary is totally definitely dumping Tony! Why? Was he terrible in bed? The kind of guy who refuses to make eye contact? What Mary needs is a real man. A man like…Branson?? When Branson says, “If you love me, you’ll support me,” she perks up. Will Sibby and George soon be sibling-cousins?!
Donk and Cora return to Downton, just in time for the Russian Tea. Tony shows up too and so do Violet and Isobel. Are those two ever apart these days? Are they contractually obligated to share every scene? Because it seems like we’re building to a climax, the School Teacher shows up too. Guess who thinks helping displaced tsarist aristocrats is totally ridiculous and isn't afraid to say it? I'll give you one try.
In a side room, Violet attacks Mary by saying: “In my day, a woman was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she’d been instructed to do so by her mama.” Um, is this why Violet is tampering with Isobel's love life? Because she’s never felt physical attraction for a man? Because she’s a lesbian and secretly in love with Isobel and so consumed with jealousy re: Isobel's suitors? Spin off!
In Cora’s room, Baxter the Angel is, of course, granted a reprieve.
Downstairs, Cora tells Donk he’s a stupid jerk.
Again, since we’re building to a climax, everyone must show up and now it’s the Baby Watcher’s turn. He’s there to tell Edith she can’t see Marigold anymore. Not cool, Baby Watcher! Edith has been through enough! Leave Edith alone!
At the tea, the School Teacher has decided to stay, which makes Donk the opposite of really happy. She says something political, obviously, which stresses the poor refugees out. Luckily, Donk has a bunch of old trash from a wedding to distract them. The trash brings back some old memories for Violet who starts talking nostalgically about the party where they got the trash and the blue dress she was wearing. At which point, a hot older Russian gentleman who is actually a prince steps forward and reminds her he gave her the wedding trash. So, she's not a lesbian, just a basic floozy who had an affair with a Russian.
Outside, Mary side eyes Granny and says: “I know now you understand my predicament far better than you let on.” They smile knowingly at each other. Is Granny the newest member of the Downton Feminist Society? The old ladies get into a car and Granny looks wistfully out at her Russian Prince and Isobel finally gets a dig in about Violet’s love life. The car drives on and credits.
5. Branson: Branson gets in the rankings this week, even though he didn't do much, for launching a thousand Mary/Branson shippers. Oh, yes. Please please please fall in love with Mary!
4. Mary: Mary is taking control of her life by protecting herself from unwanted pregnancies and maybe breaking up with a guy because he's bad at sex and hopefully starting a full-on love affair with her dead sister's husband.
3. Cora: Speaking of taking control of your life! Cora is not standing for Donk's nonsense and she's thinking about what she can do to contribute to this world! Another potential new member of the Downton Feminist Society?
2. Edith: Oh, Edith. She just cannot catch a break. But her torment is our entertainment! And I think her plot line is a lot more interesting than the war memorial or the Bates is still a murderer plot line. May Marigold and Michael be returned to you, dearest Edith!
1. Violet: Dude. She pulled a prince!
Come back next week to see is Violet rekindles her love with a royal Russian and if the Bateses run off to Mexico!
Previous Season 5 recaps:
'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Premiere Recap: We Didn't Start the Fire