'Downton Abbey' recap: Not without her daughter

'Downton Abbey' recap: Not without her daughter
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in "Downton Abbey" Season 5. (Nick Briggs /)

Oh, Edith.

After a season spent moping in the corner and bursting into tears at the sight of anyone under the age of 12, "Downton Abbey's" most unlucky woman finally decides to take some action and pull herself out of the depths of misery.


At least in theory, it's a move we should applaud. The only problem is that "taking action" in this case means essentially kidnapping Marigold, plucking her out of the only home she knows and hiding out in an anonymous hotel. Not only is this bound to be traumatizing to the little girl, it's also the worst possible way of saying thank you to the people kind enough to take her in. Mrs. Drewe hasn't come across as the most sympathetic character this season, but can you blame her for getting a bit upset when Edith suddenly shows up on her doorstep with a copy of Marigold's birth certificate and whisks her away for parts unknown?

Edith's decision is prompted by the news from Munich, Germany, that Gregson has been declared dead, an apparent casualty of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Since this is "Downton Abbey," the circumstances surrounding Gregson's supposed death and the evidence pointing to it are inconclusive enough that if he were to turn up alive in the season finale, well, I wouldn't be all that surprised. The only silver lining is that Edith has also inherited Gregson's publishing company, which could become a positive outlet for all her malaise and a source of revenue independent from her family -- all things to celebrate. (I guess Gregson had the foresight to write Edith into his will before disappearing in Munich; jolly good of him, wasn't it?)

Edith's decision to run away is a tad extreme and rather thoughtlessly executed, but it's easy to understand why she felt the need to flee. Really, has Mary ever behaved more horribly than when she saunters into the library with a new bob like Cleopatra entering Rome the day after Edith learns of Gregson's death? The only way she could have been more obnoxious is if she had been carried in on a sedan chair by four shirtless hunks to the sounds of "It's Raining Men." When Edith (quite understandably) gets upset, Mary dismisses her as a Debbie Downer who "spoils everything."

Mary's behavior is so cruel and haughty -- not to mention hypocritical, given the nearly catatonic state she was in after Matthew's death -- that I think Edith could be forgiven for crimes a good deal worse than kidnapping her own daughter. (But hey, I did love the hairdresser with the fake French accent.)

Alas, Edith isn't the only one subjected to Mary's Mean Girl routine. Like a third-grader burning ants with a magnifying glass, she shows up at whatever that horse race thingy is looking like "a cross between a Vogue fashion plate and a case of dynamite," as Miss Mabel Lane Fox puts it, for no other reason than to remind Tony Gillingham of what he's missing. Mary has come a long way since the early days of "Downton Abbey," so why is she regressing to Season 1 levels of mean spiritedness at this point in the game? And is she bound for a comeuppance?

Mary's bad behavior aside, there's much to cheer in this episode, a welcome change from the rest of this season in that "stuff" actually "happens." Case in point: Bates finally tells Anna that he knows that Green attacked her and that while he may have wanted to kill the guy, he didn't. Of course, this doesn't mean an end to their saga (nor, I fear, to the ominous "Mr. Bates is in trouble" music on the soundtrack).

For one thing, Anna fails to mention that the "cunning piece of equipment" and copy of "Married Love" belong to Mary, and not to her. (Rule No. 1 of "Downton Abbey": Why take five minutes to explain something that you can pointlessly withhold for an entire season?) For another, Mary destroyed Bates' unripped return ticket -- the only proof he has that he didn't go to London -- in the fire last season. I'm no legal expert, but ripped ticket or no ripped ticket, the case against Bates seems awfully flimsy. Where is Sarah Koenig when you need her?

Another Thing That Finally Happened this week: We find out what the heck is up with Thomas. Turns out he's not a sudden smack fiend, as we were led to believe. Instead, he's been injecting himself with a purported "gay cure" that's actually nothing but saline but it has created a nasty infection. Baxter helps Thomas through the ordeal, and a bond appears to be forming between these two. I, for one, hope it lasts. Having a friend in the house, especially one who seems almost freakishly kind and compassionate, would do wonders for Thomas in the personal growth department.

A major theme this season on "Downton Abbey" is late-in-life romance, and there are some major developments on that front. Violet pays a visit to Prince Kuraigin's drab apartment to bring him news of his wife's whereabouts. Thing is, he's more interested in discussing their torrid past. "It's not our first secret assignation," he says of their covert meeting, making the unflappable Dowager blush ever so slightly. Isobel also hints that she's ready to accept Lord Merton's proposal, which she sees as her "last chance for an adventure before I'm done." (Sorry, Dr. Clarkson.)

But if you ask me, the most romantic development in this episode comes courtesy of Carson who, inspired by Mrs. Patmore's adventures in real estate, asks Mrs. Hughes if she'd like to "invest in a property together." (Wink-wink.) It may be the most scandalous proposition we've heard all season -- and that's saying something.

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