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'Downton Abbey' Season 5, Episode 3 recap: Choosing your own path

Rade Sherbedgia as Kuragin and Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
Rade Sherbedgia as Kuragin and Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham. (Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for Masterpiece)

Lady Mary and Tony Gillingham have spent about a week out and about in Liverpool. And by "out and about," I mean "in bed in their Liverpool hotel."

They seem happy at first. They passionately kiss. They separately order breakfast to their adjoining rooms which leads to an endearingly cute situation where Gillingham has to hide from the maid.

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But something's off. Mary just seems kind of reserved about the whole thing. Even more reserved than what's generally the case for Mary.

She says, "It hasn't taken me too long to get used to sharing a bed again," but there's no joy in it. It's very matter-of-fact, like she's relearning how to use PowerPoint.

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Gillingham, on the other hand, is on an entirely different wavelength. Every moment is spent looking longingly into Mary's eyes or telling "vulgar" (according to Mary) jokes like, "You've worked up an appetite."

He's like, "signed, sealed, delivered."

He seems to be treating this relationship as something that should happen rather than something that naturally is happening. He says he's taking mental notes about everything she does so he can get used to his future. Romantic!

When he leaves to get his breakfast, Mary has a clear look of disillusionment. You should have really gone sketching, Mary. Lesson learned.

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Unfortunately she's spotted leaving the hotel by Spratt (the dowager's butler whom I am obsessed with because of his unnecessary uppity demeanor and deadpan looks). Spratt later tells the dowager that he saw Mary and Gillingham together, and the quick-thinking dowager comes up with the excuse that "they were attending an informal conference of northern landowners," which clearly wasn't a thing even in 1924.

Time for a grandmother chat! Mary plays the whole, "You're old and don't get modern life" card while the dowager counters with, "This is shocking to most people in 1924," which is probably true.

"Can we be confident that there will no unwanted epilogue?" the dowager asks. From now on, I will be referring to birth as an "epilogue."

Mary assures her there's nothing to worry about (earlier in the episode she gave the, um, equipment and the sex book to Anna to hide) and that Gillingham is chomping at the bit to propose.

Mary even has the guts to ask her grandma if it's so surprising that a woman would chose to go to bed with a man of her own free will, instead of just accepting being seduced.

"Not if she's the daughter of an earl," the dowager responds. Fair enough.

Later, Mary has a cute heart-to-heart with Branson about how she's not sure if Tony is the one, that she had just kind of settled for him and now has "unsettled."

"We never spent much time together until recently," Mary rightfully says and now she wonders if they have anything in common. Oh, Mary. Beyond you both having a lot of money and being ridiculously good looking, you really don't.

Still, Gillingham is prepared for the inevitable. He's pretty sure the marriage will happen at anytime and their one-week-sexy-time in Liverpool. At the end of the episode he randomly shows up at Downton, I'm assuming with the intention to announce to the family that they are to be married.

We'll see. Mary seems to have made up her mind.

One last disturbing dowager comment on the situation: "In my day, a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she'd been instructed to do so by her mama." Uh, sure.

Cora's night out

Meanwhile, we actually get to see Cora do stuff this season! She has accepted art historian Bricker's invitation to come to London to look at paintings in the National Gallery. Pretty exciting for a lady who unfortunately lately does nothing but "go to a meeting to organize church flowers."

But fans of "Downton" know how much of a strong, intelligent and formidable woman Cora is. We also know how much Robert really loves her, so it's hard to see him dismiss her lately. She invites him to join her in London and he's all, "It's too far and loud and I'm old and I don't care about art."

Cora and Tan Bricker go to the gallery to look at a painting by Renaissance master Piero della Francesca. A painting of an angel at Downton is one he suspects was a model for the painting in a gallery. Cora makes many keen observations about the painting, which thrills the tan off Bricker.

Cora tries to get a hold of Rosamund and can't get through so he takes Bricker up on his eager invitation to go out to dinner. We don't see the dinner itself, but it must of gone well because we see them next walking the London streets, gabbing gleefully. Bricker asks Cora about the first time she came to London and she discusses how naive she was but that she got a lot of interest from potential suitors.

She apologizes for taking about her self. Bricker says she shouldn't apologize, and that she's talking to him freely because he's expressing actual interest in her. Take notes Robert.

Bricker uses the every ounce of strength from his tan to flirt up a storm and invite her out again. No dice, Bricker. Cora's a lady. A flattered lady, but a lady. A married flattered lady.

She returns to Rosamund's alone to find Robert simmering in the living room. He decided to surprise his wife by coming up to London and setting a dinner date. He's furious that she's been out with Bricker. And -- this is not our Lord Grantham! -- says it is hard to believe that Bricker would be even remotely interested in her opinions about art. Cora is understandably deeply hurt and goes off to bed.

Is this marriage in trouble? Don't let it be so!

'Granny has a past!'

First things first: Does anything else feel like Rose's sudden change to do-gooder and volunteer a bit odd? Maybe she's just growing up, but organizing retreats for Russian refugees to come to Downton? Last year you were romancing a bandleader on the downlow.

Either way, we hope you can help those refugees from the Russian Revolution, Rose. I do think rather than having them visit Downton and look at the family's Russian-related trinkets, maybe giving them food and coats and such would be better, but OK.

But viewers get a treat from the visit, for we learn that the dowager has a bit of a past. The Russian trinkets from Downton are from when the dowager and her husband went to a royal wedding there in the 1870s. As she looks at a fan and remembers the trip, a visitor steps forward to add that he remembers when he gave her the fan!

His name is Prince Kuragin and kind of looks like a Russian Anthony Hopkins.

The dowager is startled but clearly happy to see him.

"How's the princess? Well, I hope," she stutters.

"I don't know," he says solemnly.

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UH-OH.

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"I know now that you understand my predicament far better than you let down," Mary tells the dowager. And she just smiles.

'Choose Your Own Path'

As Mary (and kind of Cora) are making some life decisions, Thomas Barrow also seems to be choosing his own path. Well, he makes a mysterious phone call about a program called "Choose Your Own Path," lies and says his dad is sick and is set to go to London for what appears to be a class or a treatment.

"Choose Your Own Path" sounds like a special Oprah-endorsed life seminar. But knowing Thomas' inner-battle, I'm thinking it something related to him wanting not to be gay.

Don't do it, Thomas!

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THIS EPISODE

Mrs. Drewe has finally had it: After Edith babysit's Marigold and Mrs. Drewe returns home to not find them immediately, she freaks out and basically grabs the child from Edith's hands as she holds her in the garden. Later, Mr. Drewe visits Downton to tell Edith to stay away for now. Looks like we're in for more scenes of Edith longingly look at Sybbie and George.

Mary's weekly quote about not liking Edith:

Branson: "Tell me, does Edith seem very distracted to you?"

Mary: "I'm not sure I'd notice."

The Green investigation continues: The kindly (but probably not for long) visits Downton a few times. He tells Carson a witness claims she heard Green say, "Why have you come?" to a person before his accident. Later, the officer interviews Bates when it's learned Green complained about Bates to Gillingham's fellow staff. Mrs. Hughes tells Mary that Bates, when explaining his whereabouts that day in London, unwittingly told the officer that he could have killed Green and made the train back to Downton in time. Meanwhile, Anna is freaking out and doesn't know that Hughes knows that Bates knows about what Green did AND that he was in London. Got it?

Baxter's missing info: After Baxter asks Cora if she should plan to get ready to leave, Cora tells her that she has a day to tell her why exactly she stole the jewels. Baxter decides to tell the truth: That she became infatuated with a former servant at her old place of employment, that the man was nasty and "turned her nasty" and told her to steal the jewels for him. She gave him the jewels, and though he promised to meet up with her the next day, he never did and she hasn't heard from him since. So basically she took the entire fall for it.

Thinking it over, Cora urges her to tell the police what happened (Baxter says she won't, that the ordeal is over in her mind) and that Baxter may stay.

Who Miss Bunting pissed off this week: A Russian refugee by criticizing the leadership in the country. Really, Miss Bunting? Not the time.

Dissapointing, Carson: Mrs. Patmore gets some sad news that her nephew who was shot for cowardice in World War I will not be recognized in a war memorial in his hometown. Patmore asks Mrs. Hughes if Carson might ask the Downton memorial committee to include his name instead, Carson is furious and says no and Patmore is heartbroken. After Carson says he's "sympathetic" to the situation, Patmore says, "Sympathy butters no parsnips." Very true, Patmore.

Elitist dowager comment of the week: After Isobel tells her that "servants are people, too, the dowager responds, "Yes, but preferably on their days off."

Context-free quote of the week: Mrs. Patmore: "That's enough, Daisy. Now come and carry the spotted dick."

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