Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 5 (PBS)

A relatively light-hearted episode, but the cheeriness depends on your point of view, quite like the Super Bowl, celebratory depends on which side you’re rooting for. But overall, a delightful and engrossing hour.

First off, a little surprise, Alfred is leaving. I thought the foursome is going to have some more entanglement. Alfred is accepted to the training course after all at the Ritz Hotel, London. That’s a significant leap from the servants’ hall in Downton, deserving celebration, but only depends on which side you’re on. Daisy is heartbroken. Eventually she’s sweet to make peace with Alfred and herself, wishing him luck as he leaves.

Violet and Isobel’s battles resume, evidence that Isobel has recovered from her mourning. She’s a social activist fighting for justice, and Violet, the established aristocracy, therefore legitimate target of her indignation. When Violet wrongly accuses and fires young Pegg for stealing her things, yes, things, Isobel rediscovers her calling. Things are what Violet cares about, so materialistic, so unjust. The ivory curio is soon found, misplaced.

Some interesting dialogues ensue…

Isobel: “Aren’t you going to say you’re sorry?”

Violet: “Certainly not.”

Isobel: “How you hate to be wrong.”

Violet: “I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation.”

The Sherlock in Isobel does some personal digging and recovers the valuable missing letter opener. What develops is like a parable. Isobel makes the same mistake of which she accuses Violet when she misjudges Pegg too soon and unwilling to face up to her wrongs, not knowing Violet after discovering her own mistake has already apologized to young Pegg, asked for his forgiveness, and rehired him back. Nobody monopolizes justice after all.

Napier and Blake turn out to be unwelcome guests. Not that I’m not sympathetic to farmers or food production, but these two men just prove they are the entitled ones, especially Blake, biting the hand that feeds him. Why, which guest would sit beside his host and call her “a sentimentalist who cannot face the truth.” Now where does that come from?

Rose has proven to be quite an event planner. Lord Grantham’s birthday party is a success, the secret is a big surprise, as she has intended. Jack Ross has done the unprecedented, bringing a night club jazz band into Downton, and he himself can go down history as the first black person to set foot in that aristocratic estate. Time has changed, or at least started to. Despite his shock, Mr. Carson is quick to point out that “we led the world in the fight against slavery,” but not before embarrassing himself by asking Ross: “Have you never thought of visiting Africa?”

While everyone is having some light-hearted turns, the heavy news or lack thereof falls like lead on Edith. She found out she’s pregnant, and Michael Gregson has “vanished into thin air.” At this stage, she doesn’t suspect anything except to worry about him. But this just may prove to be another dark chapter in her failed romantic narratives.

A date in the shadowBates and Anna’s seemingly reconciled relationship is another dark shadow in an otherwise bright episode. I like these contrasts as far as plot is concerned, light and shadow. The intriguing development is with Cora overhearing their conversation in the hotel dining room, and later, Baxter overhearing Cora talk with Mary about her concern. Even though she’s warned not to leak out what she has heard, Baxter has her assignment, the ‘condition’ as Thomas reminds her.

That hotel dining scene is oh so gratifying. Anna has phoned earlier to make a reservation. When actually there, the Maître d’ takes a top-to-bottom glance at their attire, decides there’s no reservation under the name of Bates. Julian Fellowes’ another social justice moment. Lady Grantham, Cora, comes to the rescue, ever so graciously. Isobel would have made a scene.

As for the Maître d’, a perfect casting would be Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean. Just a thought.

But my favourite scene is when Isobel, Mary, and Tom are in a room waiting to see the little ones being brought in by their nanny. These three are all widowed, survivors of tragedies when their loved ones were unexpectedly taken away from them. Mary is honest with her feelings: “I’m just not quite ready to be happy.” Then, Isobel starts sharing and reminisces on her engagement with her husband Reginald; Tom joins in with his love for Sybil; Mary recalls Matthew’s proposal to her while standing in the snow, not feeling a bit cold. Each recharged by the memory of love. Isobel cheerfully concludes at the end: “Well, aren’t we the lucky ones.”

Your favourite scene?


Previously on Downton Abbey Season 4:

Episode 4

Episode 3

Episode 2

2 Hour Opening Special


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

12 thoughts on “Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 5 (PBS)”

  1. Great recap! I liked this episode a lot, things are starting to pick up. I like your take on Isobel and Violet- so true! I loved that scene (and the music) when Isobel finagles her way into Violet’s room. She’s sneaky!Violet gets the last laugh though, and savors it as only she can!

    Alfred and daisy- kinda sad. I hope Daisy finds a little love at some point. Carson was hard on Molesley, but relented in the end. Interesting to see where Molesley goes from here. And the nursery scene- yes. I liked the look on Mary’s face when Tom was talking about being in love. Nice.

    Mr. Bean as the maitre’d? Oh that would be awesome!


    1. Greg,

      Yes, definitely, Mary’s facial expression very nuanced and moving I feel. I noticed that last night. Thanks for stopping by the pond and throwing in your two pebbles. I’ve enjoyed your Downton post too. It’s fun to compare notes. 😉


  2. I enjoyed your review as usual. I had not noticed that Edith knew she was pregnant – my husband was trying to watch the Super Bowl on the other TV and I was helping him getting the channel, so I missed that – what will she do now? My favorite scene was at the restaurant. I wonder if it is because of Anna’s hat. While in London, must have been in 2000, I bought a hat – exactly the same shape but in straw and with a black ribbon around it. It was hard on the flight back home to stop passengers to place their luggage on top of my hat, but I made it.


    1. VB,

      You must have missed that scene during Robert’s birthday party, Edith received a letter and it’s from the doctor she saw when in London, confirming her pregnancy. Poor Edith, I’m afraid she’s going down a rocky path. And yes, that’s one satisfying moment of vindication for Anna and Bates against the Maître d’ I remember studying actual sociological research on racism and prejudices using this kind of scenarios in past decades, hotel and restaurants bookings etc. where on the phone they’d accept the reservations but once they show up, people of different races and ethnicity, they were turned down. And.. I love that ‘hat story’ you have. An idea for a post? 😉


  3. Love being reminded of the episodes as I read your report. Of course, Isobel would have made a scene, but then she’s not aristocracy as Cora is (by marriage anyhow). Cora has to find a balance between her position and her belief in equality, whereas Isobel can hoe in – but Isobel probably wouldn’t have been effective!

    That nursery scene is precious.

    I like Daisy, but I think Fellowes’ overplayed her jealousy. I didn’t much like that as it was occurring.

    Moseley. Yes, an interesting story-line there …

    … and so much more. It’s amazing what they can pack into an episode and yet it doesn’t feel rushed.


    1. WG,

      Yes, it’s amazing isn’t it that there are all these story lines which draw us in all within an hour’s time. And they are all captivating, of course, some are more captivating than others. I think the acting is one of the main factors. In the nursery scene, I really appreciate Mary’s nuanced performance. I recently saw the trailer of the movie Non-Stop with Liam Neeson as an air marshal. Michelle Dockery is in it as a flight attendant. Also, Jessica Brown Findlay (Sybil) is in Winter’s Tale with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe. And Hugh Bonneville is in Monuments Men coming up. And then there’s Dan Stevens. I’m glad to see Downton stars branching out to the large screen. Of course some of them are veterans and they’re moving from the other direction, from large screen to TV, like Maggie Smith. But hope they can stay in Downton longer though. Hope Michelle Dockery will stay till the end… whenever that is. 😉


      1. I haven’t seen all those coming up yet, but have seen Bonneville in the Monuments Men trailer. Looking forward to that one. It has “our” Cate in it too. I love the way most English actors are just that, actors, and not celebrities. You see them popping up all over the place and it’s nice because all you know is that they are actors and nothing about the ins and outs of their current love lives!


    2. WG,

      You’re right about English actors being just that, actors, and not celebrities. I remember seeing a photo online of Colin Firth riding a motor bike holding on a white plastic bag… just heading home to Livia after getting some groceries. So human. 😉


  4. Another great recap! I’m enjoying the comments, too. I agree with you on the favorite scene being the nursery scene although I loved Violet’s one-upmanship with Isobel, beating her at her own game — and the doctor’s rapid acknowledgment of it. And I very much like that Cora is coming into her own, standing up for folks (as she did against the nanny.) I figured that was coming up with Edith, but what now? I am curious as to when Baxter will ‘break.” I don’t think she’s as bad as Thomas and I am wondering what he has on her to make her go along with him. They need to get some of that out in the open soon — even if he said “I know your secret” or she told him something that didn’t happen just to see how it backfired…. there’s a lot they can do with that and I just wish Julian would get around to it. We’re past the half-way point here. Oh, when there is a such antipathy as Mary feels for Blake — methinks a romance is cooking up there, maybe short, maybe long. But something…


    1. Jeanie,

      You know, I’ve a feeling about that too, with Blake and Mary. Just like the initial antagonizing between Matthew and Mary. But in this case, Blake has to work extra hard to gain my vote. Baxter seems like a decent one, sure like to see her antagonize Thomas. And Edith, how much misfortune can one face… I wonder. Now that the latest news about the possible ending of the whole show in S6 makes me appreciate every one of these characters even more.


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