Downton Abbey Season 5, Episode 6: Born This Way

 Posted by on February 10, 2015 at 10:07 am  Downton Abbey
Feb 102015

Downton Abbey, S5, Ep06, Violet Grantham and Isobel Crawley

Since you are indifferent to my opinions Mr Bates, it is only fitting that I am indifferent to yours.

In watching the latest Downton Abbey, I can’t help feeling that Julian Fellowes wants a pat on the head for being so forward-thinking about The Gay. But it feels glaringly anachronistic to have both Baxter and Doctor Mustache tell Thomas, essentially, that he’s born this way and cannot be changed. It diminishes the terrible struggles we’ve been through if you rewrite the past in that way. Not that Thomas, who is a shit, doesn’t deserve an infected ass.

This episode did feature some things I love: Isobel and the Dowager Countess sparring, Lady Mary being a haughty bitch, Anna being sweet, and Mrs. Hughes being Mrs. Hughes. I love all those things. Although I suspect Mrs. Hughes has better taste in men than Anna. Sure, we all loved Bates in Season 1, but now he wants cookies because he changed his mind about cold-blooded murder. I personally prefer to marry someone who never has to change his or her mind about that.

Edith’s relentless tragedy is relentless. Gregson is dead, and the poor tragic girl is an heiress. She celebrates by stealing another woman’s child. The fact that Mrs. Drewe raised an infant without formal adoption does not mean she is not Marigold’s mother. It is egregious what the upper classes imagine is okay to do to the working class, and yet we are meant to be happy for Edith. I just can’t. Mary says the most awful possible thing, about how no fun it is to have Grieving Edith around (which reminds me, rather horribly, of Moaning Myrtle), swore she wouldn’t say it to her face, and then of course, said it to her face. But Edith managed to have the most childish temper tantrum about her own grief, worthy of a fourteen year-old girl, completely off the rails, almost to the point of making me root for Mary.

You think to be unhappy in a marriage is ill-bred.

Rounding out the Grantham household, Lord Hoity-Toity is still punishing his wife for turning down a pass, and she gives him the best what-for I’ve seen in quite some time. Stellar!

Inasmuch as episodes have themes, this one certainly seems to be about the past. Everyone is revisiting, in some way, most obviously Lady Violet Crawley, revisiting the prince who still loves her.

I love you more than I love her. Even today. Even this afternoon.

Kuragin’s declaration of love was staggering. He gives any of them: from Matthew to Lord Merton, a run for their money! He is the Dowager Countess’s past come back, but the past also returns in the news of Gregson’s death, and whatshername returning to Tony, freeing Mary to jump the other guy’s bones with impunity. Meanwhile, the circumstances of Gregson’s murder allow a little bit of world history to come into play, lest we think we’re just watching a soap opera with cool clothes. Except saying “Herr Hitler” doesn’t change that! Bring on the clothes!

Maggie Smith as Desdemona

Maggie Smith as Desdemona

By the way, Kuragan originally fell in love with a woman who looked like this:

I do love Anna. Joanne Froggatt is a lovely actor, and she moves from fear to anger to relief with such natural grace, but honestly, I want to hit Bates with a heavy, heavy object called “Married Love.”

I hope your standards are not so high as to prevent you remaining in my employment Denker.

Are we going to enjoy the Dowager Countess’s new maid? Perhaps we are. She is fairly hilarious, and I suppose some comic hijinx between Denker and Sprat, now that I’ve decided I’m crazy about Sprat, are in order. A public argument about the Dowager Countess’s underthings is too marvelous for words. This time, Isobel and Violet play cards, last time it was a jigsaw. I am so enjoying how these two just sort of hang out and have fun. Violet even admitted to Denker that Isobel is “nice”!

Violet Crawley: I do apologize.
Isobel Crawley: Oh don’t I’m enjoying it immensely.
Violet: That’s what I was afraid of.

Mrs Patmore’s cottage is not the most interesting plot point, until we see that it is an inspiration for Carson to make the moves on Mrs. Hughes. The old dog!

Speaking of old dogs, as predicted last week, poor Isis is on the way out.

Anachronism watch: We don’t really care about anachronisms, because the show isn’t all that careful, but Tom saying “It’s not really my thing” actually made me twitch. I twitched. It was twitchy. I remember a Peanuts cartoon from the 60s or early 70s, using “my thing” as a punchline because it was a funny new phrase, just as “groovy” was sometimes a punchline in the 60s. What a ridiculous mistake!

On the subject of Tom, Edith, like Mary, offered him great trust. “If I was to tell anyone…” and so on. I think everyone trusts Tom exactly because he’s an outsider. They see themselves in a closed system and have no way of communicating within that system. All the more reason why it should change, although Fellowes, in his writing, resists that.

What did you all think? Do you think Thomas will try to Pray Away the Gay next?


  10 Responses to “Downton Abbey Season 5, Episode 6: Born This Way”

  1. “I can’t help feeling that Julian Fellowes wants a pat on the head for being so forward-thinking about The Gay”

    A minor nit perhaps, but Doctor Mustache does say to Thomas that he can’t blame him for wanting to change his orientation and that his best bet is to learn to deal with it. That seemed unemotionally clinical and struck me as how a doctor would talk to someone with an affliction.

    “yet we are meant to be happy for Edith”

    Are we? As staged, the scene where Edith is talking to Marigold about drinking champagne and ordering ice cream seems deliberately NOT happy (IMHO).

    BTW, I fell in love with Maggie Smith in “Murder By Death.” 🙂

    • Do all the downstairs crew know Thomas is gay?
      If upstairs knew would he be sent packing?
      What were the attitudes of the time? Was it not considered a mental health condition?

      • I think it’s an open secret. Certainly Mrs. Patmore tried to steer Daisy away from him in Season 1. I do believe that Grantham knows as well–didn’t Jimmy go to him with a complaint a couple of seasons back?

        • Ye. Ad it went to the police and Grantham covered it up/made it go away 1) for the cricket match, 2) to avoid scandal and 3) he went to all male boarding schools and said “if I went to the police every time a boy kissed me at Eton (or wherever)

          And I think his reasons were in that order. Ha.

  2. Dear Deb,

    Thanks for writing up this great take on the episode.
    I thoroughly enjoy reading your summaries.

    I would like to add that the downstairs help finding their own retirement properties could be a foreshadowing of the ending of the series. Do you think things may be put in place now to wrap up the characters before the next war?

    Also, will Shrimpy be put on the case to find Edith and Marigold? Now that Edith is the owner of a publishing house she has the dough to live her life independently. However, does that make her traceable? Will she come out with the truth of her parentage to her family? This kind of shame behavior reminds me of Loretta Young who had Clark Gables baby in secret. She told Hollywood she adopted the child from an orphanage in Europe. Where she actually placed the baby for a couple of years.

    Finally, I must say the Anna and Bates story is so boring…Anna needs to get rid of that albatross of a husband and get some laughter into her life! Mary is so cheeky she may even encourage the separation! Would Tom and Anna make a love connection. I want to see that guy get some action!

    Looking forward to next Sunday,

  3. I did have one insight this past week, Daisy is Lady Mary without the family background, money and class restrictions. Just as snooty, great delivery, and able to look down on almost anyone! Now if she would just bob her hair.

    • I think I get what you mean about Daisy. But, wouldn’t she be more Lady Rose’s age?
      You can see that both of them represent a new female attitude. For instance, Rose and her crush who is of another race, longing for the wireless radio and Daisy questioning every tradition like schooling and self improvement, marriage and independently speaking her mind to Tom.

      Those 2 birds would have fun at dance checking out the gents!

      • The age is irrelevant, the Dowager is the same personality too. Rose is Sybil redux, maybe less intelligent , a little more silly, but she has a heart and looks at people as individuals, whereas the Dowager, Mary and Daisy are snippy, sharp and fairly fearless in their comments to people. But of course, the Dowager has had years of practice to hone her skills, which is why her comments are so sharp and totally hilarious. Isobel has a sharp tongue too, but uses it more sparingly.

        • From a historical point of view the age may be a contributing aspect to their attitudes. The roaring twenties had females bobbing their hair, the Charleston, prohibition, women’s vote, and so on. I see the younger women mimicking the attitudes of the period. Change is picking up speed.

    • Did anyone see Sophie McShera (Daisy) in Galavant? She was adorable in a couple of hilarious musical numbers.

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