'Downton Abbey' recap: Cocktails and cuckoldry

'Downton Abbey' recap: Cocktails and cuckoldry
Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham. (Nick Briggs / Carnival Films 2014 for Masterpiece)

"Downton Abbey" may not have dancing sharks, but at least it's got Cousin Rose.

It's true that, as some have argued, Rose is basically the Cousin Oliver of "Downton Abbey" -- the fresh-faced new relative brought in to inject some life into a flagging series. But turns out that isn't always a bad idea.


Just when "Downton Abbey" was getting stale, Rose and an adorable young chap named Atticus Aldridge meet cute in a rainstorm. It was pretty obvious when Rose told Shrimpy last week that she would marry only for love that she was about to meet a suitor who'd put that promise to the test. Now she's found him: It turns out that Aldridge is Jewish, his ancestors fleeing Odessa during the pogroms of the late 1800s, which for an aristocratic young lady in the 1920s would have been a Very Big Deal indeed. Given Lord Grantham's view of Catholics, it's safe to assume he won't be thrilled about Rose's latest love interest. And given Rose's taste for scandalous romance, it's also safe to assume any family objections will only strengthen her attraction to Aldridge.

His heritage may also put a damper on her relationship with the Russian aristocrats in York, who don't seem too fond of her soon-to-be new beau. (While we're on the subject, why are the Russians being kept in what appears to be a medieval dungeon?)

In other scandalous relationship news, Bricker pays a visit to Downton Abbey this week, ostensibly to photograph that painting he and Cora have been talking about nonstop all season but really, as we all know, to put the moves on her ladyship. And that he does, barging into Cora's room just moments before -- wouldn't you know it -- Lord Grantham returns unexpectedly from that gathering of important men he was attending in Sheffield. (Can I just ask, what's with these guys on "Downton Abbey" just barging into women's bedrooms uninvited all the time?) Grantham promptly punches the daylights out of Bricker, who leaves the house early the next morning.

Judging from Cora's longing gaze as he pulls out of the driveway, this may not be the last we see of him. It certainly doesn't help that Lord Grantham -- who, lest we forget, had his own dalliance with a maid not so long ago -- decides to give his wife the silent treatment. Since Cora feels ignored by her family and especially by her husband, as we are repeatedly reminded, this probably isn't such a wise tactic.

In other matters romantic, Mary heads to London for dinner with Charles Blake, who surprises her by also inviting Miss Mabel Lane Fox along. His hair-brained idea is that they can broker some kind of peace agreement over Tony Gillingham, which seems unnecessary given that Mary already dumped the poor guy -- but I digress. The key thing is that Mabel storms off in a huff, leaving Mary and Charles to flirt the night away.

Meanwhile, Branson bids farewell to Miss Bunting but -- sigh -- already seems to be having second thoughts about the decision. And even Dr. Clarkson admits that Lord Merton's interest in both Isobel and medicine seems genuine. (When a man starts talking goiters, you know it's true love.)

Speaking of bad ideas, Edith's relationship with the Drewes takes another turn for the worse this week after she shows up uninvited, yet again, this time with Aunt Rosamund in tow. I'm beginning to suspect Mrs. Drewe might have some rage issues, because I don't really know why she objects so vehemently to Edith's presence. Edith is supposed to seem a little stalker-y, but so what? You'd think she'd welcome an extra hand around the house. What's a little baby fever when you've got a mountain of dirty diapers in need of washing?

As we all knew they would, Rosamund and Violet have figured out the truth behind Edith's "interest in the farmer's daughter" and propose a solution: Why not send Marigold away to a French boarding school and never tell anyone you're her mother? While it's hard to imagine how that plan could possibly go wrong, Edith isn't convinced and at the cocktail party starts dropping hints to Violet about taking the baby to London, then steals away to Carson's office to make a secret phone call. Whatever happens, I expect it will be quite messy.

This week's Sign the Downton Way of Life is Dying Out is that the Crawleys are throwing -- gasp! -- a cocktail party instead of a seven-course dinner, which is exactly the sort of thing us modern-day folk throw when we're trying to be "fancy." Oh, the irony. (But hey, those cocktails look delicious, don't they?) There's also an inconsequential but surprisingly amusing little subplot involving Mrs. Patmore, who inherits a small sum of money and turns to Mr. Carson for advice about how to invest it. The problem is that Carson doesn't actually know a thing about financial matters, or much of anything in the modern world, so Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes have to figure out a sound way to invest Mrs. Patmore's money without hurting Carson's feelings in the process.

"I wish men worried about our feelings a quarter as much as we worry about theirs," says Mrs. Hughes. Her comment touches on a theme that's in some ways central to "Downton Abbey" -- namely, that women of this era may have lacked power but made up for it with emotional savvy.

Finally, the investigation into the death of Green progresses incrementally this week as an inspector from Scotland Yard shows up at Downton to interrogate Anna and Mary. For a long time I assumed this never-ending investigation was going to end with Bates in hot water, but now I'm wondering whether Anna might not become the family jailbird. Another concern: How Bates, who's clearly eager to be in the family way after several years of wedded but not yet fertile bliss, is going to react when he finds Lady Mary's birth control and copy of "Married Love" in Anna's things. Stay tuned.

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