Downton Abbey series five, episode seven review: Edith returns, Branson swears

Is Lady Mary destined to remain alone? Can the workers ever rise up and seize the means of production? Both these questions and more are asked in our increasingly controversial recap

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“I’ve boffed her, you know.”

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Tony Gillingham didn’t quite put it like that, but numerous conversations this week showed that his lay-cation in Liverpool with Lady Mary had left a lasting impression. Not the lasting impression Mary usually leaves on her lovers, which is ignominious death. Merely the idea that he’d signed some sort of contract in flesh and couldn’t now revert to his one true love, Martha Lane-Fox.

Lord Gillingham, Lane-Fox and Mary’s other, more fun suitor Charles Blake were all in Downtonshire so that Blake could impishly push Gillingham and Lane-Fox together, setting them up for a lifetime of shared frowning tedium. But his efforts were soon overshadowed by someone else dealing with the dire consequences of consummation: Edith had gone. 

Why she’d left was answered immediately when Tim the kind pig-wrangler’s wife arrived at the house to tell Cora her story. She had raised a girl called Marigold with as much devotion as if she were one of her own children/pigs, only for the bairn’s killjoy biological mother to snatch her away. The pig-wrangler’s wife felt used, not least because this climactic exchange took place offscreen and was summarised by Cora as she floated through the library.

But where had Edith gone? The Crawleys scratched their heads until Rose’s new boyfriend Atticus, the charming ventriloquist’s dummy, piped up. Edith had, according to the local station master, trained it to London. She had also recently inherited a publishing company in London.

On hearing this, Atticus had a flash of inspiration as well as teeth. “Oggiously she’s at the gugglishing gunngany!” he exclaimed, darting his eyes excitedly from side to side. Rose, who is as happy and thick as a smile drawn in crayon on cardboard, decided then and there that Atticus was a keeper.

Rose and Atticus would be engaged before the episode was out, inspired by a dinner given in honour of his chipper mum and defensive dad, a function postponed last week because there’d been a horse race and everyone was dirty. The rescheduled beanfeast was a happy occasion. Isobel Crawley announced that she was, after due consideration, sufficiently impressed by Lord Merton’s interminable explanations of jolly interesting things he’d seen in Reader’s Digest. She would marry him.

Previously, viewers and supporting characters had assumed that the Dowager Countess was against this union because of the consequent reordering of the Downtonshire social strata. Having enjoyed inviting Isobel to tea in the knowledge that she could at any point legally have her shot, the D-C now faced a future in which Isobel, as the area’s top toff by marriage, could have her shot.

At an emotional cake-guzzle with Lady Mary, however, the Dowager revealed that simple loneliness was what she feared, should her bestie marry Lord Snoozy. Is she forgetting the fallback option of Prince Kuragin’s bedsit? It’s damp, but by heaven it’s welcoming.

Down in London, Cora pooh-poohed Aunt Rosamund’s plan to sell Marigold to the French, and insisted that her surprise grand-daughter be ensconced in the Downton nursery. So back Edith came, with the cover story of Tim the kind pig-wrangler being financially unable to rear his latest child, and Edith philanthropically stepping in. Even Rose could see the holes in this, but Lord Grantham was distracted and agreed. So that’s all sorted.

Except no it isn’t, because Anna knows. Lady Mary had been summoned to London by Charles Blake to participate in a scheme at a cinema. Edith, arriving, saw her on the Downton Parkway station platform and kept Marigold from her view, but Anna saw the child and later confided in Mrs Hughes. Hughesy advised her to shut it. But still.

In London, Charles Blake had learned that Gillingham and Lane-Fox would be seeing a certain film, so he arranged for he and Lady Mary to be present when they emerged. At the crucial moment, Blake pounced, planting a tongueless face-smash on Mary’s surprised lips. This was what the sex-crazed Gillingham needed to see. With Mary’s erotic spell broken, he happily left her behind, writing himself and Lane-Fox out of the series.

Charles Blake has however been called indefinitely to Poland on business, excusing Mary from the tricky business of dumping a man because he kisses like a blind man bumping into you, and leaving her with her one true love, the dressing-table mirror.

Back in Downtonshire, the slaves’ chief concern was Daisy’s education. At the episode’s dawn, she was glumly committing herself anew to sieving Mrs Patmore’s rabbit porridge, having read in the papers that the Ramsay MacDonald government was struggling already, and the working classes were thus doomed to indefinite subjugation.

Molesley had last week revealed to Daisy that he’d missed his vocation as a teacher and was keen to replace Miss Bunting as her tutor, in the hope of putting the kitchen maid on the last social-mobility helicopter out of Saigon. Now a politically disenchanted Daisy was rejecting his tempting offer of going through Vanity Fair’s subtext line by line.

M-Patz rallied round, arranging a meeting with Daisy’s father-in-law Mr Mason, whose standing offer of taking over his farm is recalled when dramatically necessary. Mason told her to keep studying, and not to worry about current politics because before long, a Labour government would be “ordinary”. Well, quite. I would advise Daisy to live just beyond the Second World War to see the foundation of the NHS, then die of old age before it all goes toffs-and-serfs again.

Before long, the servants resumed their default position of living vicariously through their employers, because the second big dinner of the week was a humdinger. Isobel’s impending nuptials with Lord Snoozy demanded an occasion at which he re-introduced his accursed family. Newer members of the household were soon subtly appraised of the fact that in series three episode one, Merton’s horrid son Larry had been jealous of Branson’s marriage to Sybil and had spiked his drink, causing a humungous scene.

Larry’s return to Downton did not disappoint. Within minutes he was loudly holding forth with his theory that his dad’s marriage to Isobel was doomed due to her being, in Larry’s eyes, not much more than a meths-swilling tramp. This went down pretty poorly on the whole, but Larry wasn’t finished. He followed up with an eye-watering one-two punch of bigotry against both chauffeurs and Jews, both of whom have been welcomed without qualm into the Downton bosom.

Before Larry had a chance to start on all them filthy Romanians coming over here claiming benefits, Branson stood up, becoming slightly taller in the process. “Why don’t you get out, YOU BASTARD?”

Larry complied, but no proper social function can recover from a “standing bastard”, so it was yet another dinner that had to be abandoned before dessert. Mrs Patmore’s gooseberry in the hole? In the bloody bin.

Isobel intimated to Lord Snoozy that this debacle had put her off the whole marriage plan. Maybe the Merton and Crawley clans simply weren’t compatible. But the solution is staring everyone in the face. Larry is posh, pale, psychopathically rude and has a chin you could dig through ice with. Surely he is the ideal husband for Lady Mary?

Meanwhile in the master bedroom, Cora was giving Lord Grantham perhaps the ultimate expression of love: to look someone in the eye and say yes, I want to wake up tomorrow with you and a dead dog.

Isis the fundamentalist Labrador had begun ailing last week and was now reduced to lying immobile on carpets, with Barrow pressed into service moving her from one carpet to another according to where humans were.

The family vet had confirmed that the dog playing Isis had been offered the lead in a disappointing Hollywood film, so the old girl wouldn’t last the night and needed her owner beside her. Lord G intended sleeping in his dressing room again, but for compassionate purposes this time.

Cora said no: Isis and Lord G should stay with her in the king-size four-poster. A touching if confusing exchange followed in which Lord G observed that Isis would die with a person who loved her lying on each side of her in bed, and Cora said she hoped the same might happen to her one day.

While we and Lord G puzzled over who the third sleeper in that scenario would be, Isis – the only character for whom life is simple – closed her eyes.

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