That "glamorous pirate" Lord Gillingham is working on some sort of Guinness World Record of pursuit here.
I'd be weirded out a bit if Tony wasn't more likeable. He's proper, but not insufferable. And doesn't get drunk easily like Sir John "Dimples" Bullock. And Mary is clearly a catch -- she has the looks, the property and side-saddle riding abilities.
But compared with Matthew Crawley's epic 147-year courtship of Mary, Lord Gillingham's unexpected marriage proposal seems pretty jarring. Credit Tony for going after something that he wants (and he comes across as genuine about it), but really -- dude just got reacquainted with Mary very recently after barely knowing each other in childhood.
In the episode's beginning, Gillingham and the rest of the Weekend Dinner Party of Dramatic Consequences head home and he pushes again for another date with Mary. She refuses in a super demur way that lets the audience know "yeah, this is probably going to happen at some point or dragged out through multiple seasons."
Later, on a Downton business trip to London with Branson and Rose, Mary encounters Gillingham again -- and by "encounters" I mean Mary's aunt, Rosamund, finds a way to invite him an outing at a jazz club.
(Side note: Did you know that Rosamund's last name is "Painswick." It's all very Dickensian, as though she's some sort of hardened child labor overseer in a novel).
Back at Downton, Mary is surprised by Gillingham again when he drops by the house. Turns out he was also traveling on the train back to Downton that Mary took, but he remained in third class (how slumming it of him) because he wanted to talk privately with her.
"Will you marry me?" he sort of blurts out as the two talk in the library.
"Tony, you don't know me," is Mary's rational response.
At first, I was in disbelief at this scene, but oddly as it progresses it gets more plausible. Tony says he "likes" his intended bride, Mabel, and that he "could come to love her" but that he's not in love with Mabel as he is with Mary. That was some dinner party!
But you pretty much trust Gillingham here -- he doesn't seem to have any hidden agenda. You believe him.
My favorite quote from this interaction is when Gillingham says "Look, I never met Matthew, but I'm sure he was a splendid chap. But he's dead and I'm alive."
I mean true, but perhaps calling your love's recently dead husband and father of her baby a "splendid chap" is not the best choice of words. Kind of funny, but super-reservedly British.
Gillingham spends the night at Downton and gives Mary some time to think about, you know, her future. All he wants is some assurance that AT SOME POINT Mary will marry him. It can be two, three years from now, he says. He will wait, which is pretty romantic and sad at the same time.
Walking the grounds alone, Gillingham pushes Mary for an answer. Mary asks him what would happen if she refuses and Gillingham says that he would be honor-bound to marry this Mabel Lane Fox character. (Side note again: Is anyone else curious about what this woman looks like? Is she the greatest heiress of the season because of her money alone, or does the woman have good qualities? Mabel Lane Fox, where are you?)
Mary's most emotional moment comes when, clearly torn about what to do, she reminds Tony that "it's no good."
"Yesterday, you said I fill your brain. Matthew fills mine. Still. I don't want to be without him. Not yet," she says.
Gillingham understands (so does the audience) and asks her one favor -- a kiss because, "I'll never love again as I love you in this moment." (Could this be the most dramatically soap-operay line ever uttered on Downton's grounds? Maybe, but it's OK).
They kiss. The music swells on cue. And we're all left wondering what will really happen with these two -- and if it's a good situation or not.
What do you think?