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Review: ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 5 Hot Topics Include Anti-Semitism and Nudism

Review: 'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 5 Hot Topics Include Anti-Semitism and Nudism

PREVIOUSLY: Review: ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 4 Is Full of Costume Porn and Proposals


Because we all did something very good in a past life, Samantha Bond is back for a second episode running. Rosamund is unimpressed that Marigold is being cared for by a pig farmer rather than the childless rich lady she found for Edith, claiming “I gave up ten months of my life to make sure she came safely into the world.” (Really, Rosamund probably spent all her time in Switzerland eating chocolate and flirting with ski instructors.) The scene between Rosamund and Violet is so good it almost spoils the rest of the episode. They capture the mother-daughter dynamic perfectly — they’re so alike, and that’s exactly why they can never get on.

Rose announced last week that she only wanted to marry for love, and right on schedule she meets a terribly nice chap by the name of Atticus Aldridge. He’s rich, handsome — a dead ringer for Prince William — and his family is titled. However, they’re also from Eastern Europe, they work in banking and, in case Uncle Julian (Fellows) hadn’t spelled it out for us enough, really, really Jewish. Rose’s displaced Russian aristocrats show their true colors with a bit of anti-Semitism, which is a timely reminder that actually most of them were probably complicit in the pogroms that resulted in Atticus’ family ending up in England. Odds on, they’ll be married by the Christmas special — they’re so adorable, it’s like watching two labradoodles playing together.

Mary is in London for dinner with Charles Blake but GASP — he’s also invited Sassy Mabel Lane Fox! He claims to want Mary’s help in reuniting Sassy Mabel Lane Fox with Tony “can’t take no for an answer” Gillingham, but there’s a glint in his eye that says “threesome.” At one point Mary takes off her gloves like she’s unsheathing a sword and it is literally the best thing ever. 


Mrs. Patmore’s aunt has died, hurrah! She’s left her some money, and Mrs. P goes to Carson for financial advice, which… OK? He’s the highest-ranking person in the house she’s allowed to talk to without a written letter of permission from the Queen, so it sort of makes sense, although Mrs. Hughes suggests she needs “to talk to someone who’s still in the game.” Cue Carson spending the rest of the season trying to prove to her that he’s hip and with it, just like the youngsters. Maybe he’ll get a skateboard.

In My Lady’s Chamber 

Molesley is determined to find out the full story behind Baxter’s spell behind bars, and it seems she can’t resist his hangdog expression and comb-over. There’s something sort of sweet about their tentative romance, but there’s also a touch of Entitled Nice Guy-itis about him that’s a bit off-putting. Baxter can do better.

Nobody Cares About Cora

Lines that were actually uttered by Robert this episode: “You’ll just have to make do with Cora.” Because Robert is the worst.

In yet another example of Cora suddenly being given personality traits, she announces that she likes cocktail parties because “you only have to stay for forty minutes” instead of being stuck between deaf old aristocrats for a seven-course dinner. Man, Cora really, really hates her life.

Luckily, Simon Bricker swings by for a spot of flirting — only this time he takes it up a notch, taking advantage of Robert’s overnight absence to pop into her bedroom and propose they appreciate something other than art.

If you ever need Robert Crawley to show up somewhere, just let Cora start enjoying herself. He can be on the other side of the country but if she so much as shows a flicker of any emotion other than dutiful affection, BAM! It’s like he’s been conjured into existence by any happiness that isn’t related to him.

A fight between Robert and Simon ensues — broken furniture, lots of grunting and Cora yelling “Stop” a lot. When Edith comes to find what all the fuss is about, Cora claims that she and Robert were just playing a game. Edith rightly looks traumatised but not actually surprised, which makes you wonder what kind of noises can normally be heard coming from Lord and Lady Grantham’s room at night. Is the dressing room he’s always threatening to sleep in actually their Red Room of Pain?

It’s the Future, Mr. Carson

A nudist colony has opened in Essex, and surprisingly the Dowager is mostly just against the idea because it’s Essex and therefore damp — although, as Isobel points out, “I doubt they were aiming it at you.” The Dowager will need to remove a few layers herself, in order to treat that epic burn.

December-December Romance

There’s disappointingly little on the Carson/Hughes romance front this week, but Violet and Isobel’s Sapphic spinster-dom continues apace, with poor Dr. Clarkson yet again being roped in as a potential beard.

Violet is on tenterhooks about Isobel’s answer to Lord Merton’s proposal, but bafflingly, Isobel wants to tell him first, leaving Violet to grump that “Ellen Terry has nothing on you for stringing out a moment.” There’s something curiously endearing about the older characters making Victorian pop culture references.

Maggie Smith and David Robb’s Dr. Clarkson play off against each other wonderfully — much better than he and Penelope Wilton do — and it’s interesting that it’s Clarkson Violet starts to open up to, claiming she wants to save her friend from “A hollow existence in a large and drafty house with a man who bores her to death.” Are we still talking about Lord Merton, Violet?

Of course, Fellowes doesn’t intend for Violet and Isobel to be anything other than sparring partners, but a world where they have an awkward but stately courtship, with Isobel trying to make Violet read Virginia Woolf and the collected works of Radclyffe Hall and Violet getting all flustered would be so much more interesting than one where the only gay character is a tortured, self-loathing quasi-villain and intense female friendship gets tossed aside in favor of heterosexual love plots.

Also, either Lord Merton has a medical fetish or he’s actually flirting with Clarkson.

Who Killed Mr. Green?

Bates is the most obvious choice, because he’s creepy and textbook abusive. Bates is a murderer, the only question is who he murdered — possibly this subplot. But no, there’s only one real candidate here. Who do we know was in London when he was murdered? Who has a cast-iron reason to want Mr. Green out of the way? Lady Mary, of course. The last thing she wants is a prospective suitor whose valet raped her lady’s maid/confidante/possibly only actual friend and if anyone in this show has the balls to carry out cold-blooded murder, it’s Mary “Black Widow” Crawley.

Grade: A-

READ MORE: Review: ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5, Episode 3, Digs Into ‘Russki Business’

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