'Downton Abbey' recap: In sickness and in health

The feels-longer-than-the-100-Years-War battle over the future of Downton's hospital rages on, and it's enough to make one sick.

Or, in Robert's case, make one literally sick. In a frightening way.

During another dramatic dinner party (with very special guest Neville Chamberlain, slumming it as health minister before becoming prime minister) the dowager wastes no time rambling on about why Black Death-era medical treatments are still fine and dandy. There's not even food on the table and she's raring to go.


Within two minutes of the back and forth, Robert tries to put a stop to things while grabbing his stomach, just as he ominously has in the past few episodes (subtle foreshadowing is not "Downton's" forte). He gets up from his seat to call for reason before, in a truly shocking moment, blood bursts (and bursts is an understatement) violently out of his mouth and onto the fancy dinner table.

Then there's another body-shaking burst, with enough force to send his blood across the table and onto Cora's face and dress. I mean, this was "Walking Dead"-level graphic. Obviously, it's enough to force the Hospital War to go to a cease fire for a bit as Robert's rushed to the hospital. Cora waits a few moments before telling Chamberlain (in front of the dowager) that she wants the new modern treatment to go forth because, well, look at her husband.


Later, we learn Robert underwent surgery to repair his burst ulcer (probably, it's not really specified) and that he's likely going to be OK (sorry for those who had Robert in their office's Final "Downton" Season Death Pool), but the drama doesn't stop. In the heat of the moment, Cora and the dowager discuss Marigold in the context of a family-sticking-together secret and Mary just happens to be in earshot and what will she do?!

One can't tell if Mary's mad a secret has been kept from her, if she wants to use it to get back at Edith for the whole telling everyone about Pamuk situation from Season 1, if she is paralyzed by any notion of feeling sympathetic toward Edith or ... just bored. She decides to see if Anna wants to tell her what's up, but Anna (badly) lies that the only "talk" about Marigold is that she is lucky to have been taken in by the family.

Mary does a Dramatic Mary Stare in her fancy mirror, but she probably doesn't need to focus on this Marigold situation. Now that Branson is back in action, she's busy figuring out exactly what he wants to do, which, so far, basically amounts to planning a repair shop on the property and checking in on Mr. Mason and the pigs to see if everything is OK with him (and especially the pigs).

BTW: The Drewes moved out and Mr. Mason seemed to wait all of a few hours to move all of his buckets and wooden crates in (again: We must be reminded that the dude is poor).

Mary also has inner-turmoil about whether to fall for Henry Talbot. He's, like, poorer than her.

"I won't marry down," Mary says as if we were confused about that.

Branson does his Branson advice thing and tells Mary that marriage should be a partnership of equals, but not based on money or status. That's before Mary turns her nose up at the dusty cottage of Mr. Mason suggests he can't take care of pigs alone because he's all old and stuff.

Still, Mary must see some value in Branson's words because she agrees to meet up with Henry after he calls Downton to pass on the message that he's in the area looking at cars and wants Mary to be there ... to look at him looking at cars. Oh, and she needs to endure watching him race with his friend (with much dramatic racing music and close-ups of funny 1920s driving goggles).


"They take such risks! I hate it!" Mary tells Branson, who accompanies her to the car-watching because he's so enjoying wanting to make Mary act like a real person.

"There's no such thing as slow motor racing," is Branson's helpful response. I'm sure Mary knows that, especially since her husband died in a car accident, but that doesn't prevent her from eagerly applying lipstick after Henry decides to stop racing and speak with her.

Then we're treated to the awfully funny sight of Mary sticking out like a posh thumb in a pub (which Mary calls a "public house" in her aloof upper-class way). Henry admits his life is "rougher" than Mary's, though I'm pretty sure 99.2 percent of the English population could say the same thing. Then Henry makes an awkward attempt at asking her out again:

Henry: Well, Mary. At 2 p.m. March 28 I may be in a restaurant with some friends of mine and it would be swell if maybe you could be possibly walking by and perhaps you'd stop in and see me ... but, you know, to just meet my friends."

Mary: Well, perhaps. If it happens.

Branson has had it with these prim-and-proper shenanigans and suggests that they should just admit that they like-like each other and just go for it and such. Oh, rich people!


Someone luckier in love is Edith (a phrase I thought I'd never write) who throws caution to the upper-class rules and asks Bertie out (!) to her own flat (!!) for a drink (!!!) before going out for a night of dinner/dancing (!!!!).

"What a racy plan!" Bertie says. Sure is! After Edith interviews co-editors (and hires a woman who is her own age -- good job, Edith!), Bertie arrives at Edith's place and declares it the most sophisticated room he's ever seen ... because there's a table and chairs and such (WHY does everyone keep treating Edith's flat like its the Taj Mahal!?). Eventually he kisses her.

Edith pulls a line out of Mary's playbook — "But you don't know me," the same thing Mary told Gillingham when he first proposed — but then finally seems to accept the fact that someone wants to show affection toward her.

Wedding next week, Edith?

Meanwhile, in Sgt. Willis Arrives In Every Episode news, Baxter is taken to the trial of the Guy Who Convinced Her to Steal Jewelry for witness testimony, but we don't even get to see any of it because the guy changed his plea before the trial began. What a rip off. Baxter finally has the gumption to stick up for herself and she doesn't even get to do it. This storyline was a good use of time.

"It feels anticlimactic," Baxter says. Agreed.


Because the Bateses are now regulated to simply being around to tell each other whether they are happy or not (for the record, this episode: happy), we're randomly treated to some action with footman Andy, who had a very busy episode. He decides he wants to learn the art of pig rearing from Mr. Mason, so he can assist him on the farm. (Sidenote: It's kind of sad when bettering your station in life means helping to breed pigs).

Then, when given several pig-rearing books, we discover he can't read or write because he "fooled around in school and then it was too late."

PSA from "Downton Abbey": Stay in school or you too could become an illiterate pig-rearing assistant farmer.

Thomas does his every-other-episode good deed and offers to help Andy read and write and says he won't tell the others. All this despite Andy avoiding him like the plague because, we learn in this episode, that Andy knows Thomas is gay and adopts some form of 1920s Restrained Estate Staff Gay Panic. To his credit, Andy apologizes for treating Thomas poorly, and Thomas lets it go. Oh, that Barrow. So complicated. Maybe he'll also teach him to hate gay people a little less, because, you know, they can help people read.

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In other random subplot news, we finally get to check out Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes' home, which, though temporary, looks dark and dingy and somewhere a Dickens' character would live before having to go to debtor's prison.

But the whole issue here is that Carson wants to start eating at home and Mrs. Hughes can't cook so she gets Patmore to help. They really don't know what to do with these two now that they're married, do they?


But it's still not good enough, as Carson complains about everything from a cold plate to lamb in a vegetable dish (apparently a Carson no-no) and a knife not being sharp enough (sharpen your own knife, Carson). Later, Carson stupidly asks Patmore (in front of Mrs. Hughes!) to perhaps teach Mrs. Hughes how to cook because, you know, he's a man and deserves it. Yikes.

In case you haven't figured it out, Episode 5 was a bit of a jumbled (yet entertaining) mess of randomness. There was even a weird diversion involving Denker scolding Dr. Clarkson about turning his back on the dowager's stay-the-course plan, which led to Denker almost losing her job and .... zzzzzzzz. Why must we be treated to 10 minutes of the Denker-Spratt Sniping At Each Other Segment every episode now?

Most random of all was the presence of Chamberlain (and his distractingly dark mustache). We later learn that the dowager got him to dine at Downton because she knows he was partly responsible for a prank when he was younger (something about digging a trench below Piccadilly, which is the most British prank of all time) and she threatened to reveal it to the press if he didn't attend. The dowager is blackmailing government officials now?

The funniest (or something) moment of the night came when the squabbling began at dinner and Chamberlain looked thoroughly put out. "Don't you enjoy a good fight?" the dowager asks him. "Not sure I do really," Chamberlain says.

This coming from a man who once tried to negotiate with Hitler.