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Sweatpants & TV | Downton Abbey Season 6, Episode 5

Queen Mary and Lord Chamberlain, plus pigs and patty-pans

By Julia Park Tracey

Spoiler alert! You have been warned.

Lord Chamberlain

I’ve been going on for a few weeks about the tedium of the hospital saga on Downton, and last night the plotline went nuts. We got Neville Chamberlain as Minister of Health coming to Downton Abbey to take sides in the battle between Violet and Isobel, Cora and pretty much everyone else. Those of you who don’t know your British history should know that Chamberlain was later Prime Minister of Britain, the one right before Winston Churchill, up to and as World War II broke out. And it was Chamberlain’s policy of “appeasement” toward Hitler—that is, his willingness to stave off war at the expense of Czechoslovakia—that some think made the outcome worse. Chamberlain’s desire to avoid a fight is the huge wry laugh under the Downton hospital brouhaha; of all people to drag into your side, Mr. I Don’t Like War is not your wingman. He’s the one to hold your jackets and drinks.

Bloody Robert

And then we got Robert spewing blood across the dinner table like a scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was gross, but also amusing to watch British nobility in action when someone causes a scene. They spring into action, no one complains about the carpets or their silk dinner gowns, and concern for Robert is the only thing on their faces and minds. Is there some larger metaphor under the medical emergency, or is this Julian Fellowes’ way of keeping our eyes glued to the telly week after week? As plot twists go, this one was very exciting, if gruesome (seriously, you don’t like the sight of blood? Avert your eyes.) #smellingsalts

Some of our favorite moments from this week’s episode:

Patmore & Mason

Mr. Mason moves into Yew Tree Farm. Daisy considers moving in with him, with just a 20-minute walk to the big house. It could be quite nice. However, is she ready for Mrs. Patmore as a mother-in-law? Mrs. Patmore has eyes for Mr. Mason, who may have eyes back. And new footman Andy wants to be a pig farmer. Could they all end up happily together in one house? All it needs is a swipe of Fellowes’ pen!

Violet

Violet’s handmaid, Denker, sasses Dr. Clarkson, who complains to Violet, who sacks Denker. Pratt smirks, hums and all but cheers to know Denker is leaving. But what’s that? A bit of emotional blackmail? Looks like Denker is here to stay, thanks to her knowledge of Pratt’s criminal nephew, so Pratt goes to bat, and Denker wins this round.

Mary & car guy

Mary and Henry Talbot and the car racing—I haven’t seen a car chase like that since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Mary likes Henry, but, as she makes clear to Tom, “I won’t marry down.” Although Tom and Mary debate the merits of equal partnership, Mary is stiff enough to know only what she wants. Tom pushes a bit, “There’s no such thing as safe love. Real love is giving someone the power to hurt you.” #bodyblow I’m not sure Mary has it within her stiff-upper-lipness to let someone hurt her, after all that’s passed. But in the meantime, as she notes, the chase is fun.

Lady-Edith-Editor

I love that Edith is successful. She interviews and hires a woman editor—a young woman of the same age. Can Edith make friends? Be a successful editrix? And—love herself enough to let Bertie Pelham love her? It’s the opposite of Mary’s problem here: Mary won’t marry down to someone who could love her; she loves herself too much. Edith would, but doesn’t love herself enough (yet). I just want to cheer this woman to success. You can do it, Edith! Please! #soclose

Mary & Edith

Edith’s secret about Marigold is teetering on the brink of disaster, or rather, of Mary finding the truth. In the throes of the drama around Robert’s bloody explosion, Mary overhears a tidbit of something and files it away for later. Anna won’t spill the beans, despite Mary’s prodding. Somehow, I sense we are coming to a crossroads between these two women. Mary needs knowledge for control; Edith needs love. It seems that Mary may win control…of everything. Except Edith. Despite Edith’s insecurities, she may end up happily ever after, between motherhood, career and love, and Mary may just end up—in control. #teamedith

Lady Mary

And so at last we come to the end of the episode: Mary, with Tom’s aid, will be in control of everything. Papa must rest and not worry. Tom is merely the agent, but Mary is the trustee, holding the property for her son George. Mary, silhouetted in that key archway of light at the very last scene, is queen of the castle in all but name now. I mentioned a Shakespearean tinge to the unfolding story in last week’s roundup. Downton Abbey felt distinctly akin to King Lear last night—with Sybil/Cordelia dead, Robert/Lear bloodied and battered, and Mary/Goneril in control of the kingdom—perhaps it’s a stretch, but Mary, with her noble name and presence, could carry it off. And you know the Brits have to bring Will Shakespeare into everything.

What we hated:

Carson, married, is an officious prig. What a jerk. He wants to rule his wife as he ruled the big house. He criticizes Mrs. Hughes-Carson’s cooking, table setting, their own silverware, etc. If anyone has grown above his station, it’s Carson. He acts like a home-style supper with his beloved in their own cottage needs extra courses and fine silver. He’s in for a big fall when Mrs. Hughes-Carson nut-punches him and makes him eat bubble-and-squeak every day for a month. When 1930 comes and times get tougher, that’s what they have to look forward to. She will be better equipped to deal than he. Most irksome line of the episode: “It’s been a while since she’s played with her patty pans, and she’s got some catching-up to do.” #clueless #mansplaining

What we loved:

  • Speaking lines for the children! George and Sibby get to say real words! Very cute.
  • Pratt’s first name is Septimus. That means he was the seventh child. No wonder he has so many nephews running amuck.
  • Bates yelling “Bad harvest!”
  • The look on Mary’s face overhearing her mother and grandmother speak of Marigold’s origins. She knows.

Until next week, #pinkiesup! #teatime

 

 

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About Julia Park Tracey (29 Articles)
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, blogger and author. She is the Editorial Director of Sweatpants & Coffee. She is the author of six books including the Veronika Layne mystery series, and the Poet Laureate of Alameda, CA. www.juliaparktracey.com

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