Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 1 Recap

Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 1 Recap

It goes without saying that there are all kinds of spoilers up in this mug, so if you don’t want to know what happens until you’ve watched the episode, it would stand to reason that you shouldn’t keep reading. If you’re ready to hear about what’s happened (and hopefully have a laugh or two), then read on.

Overall comments: This episode felt like it started off a bit slow, but I was gasping and clutching my pearls by the end. There were a couple of times that I was holding my breath.


This episode also taught me what I should have known by now: Don’t sleep on the first fifteen minutes because it’s exposition for almost everything that happens. I have a feeling that some exchanges taken for granted now are exposition for later events. So much was packed into this episode that it’s hard not to dissect every scene.

It’s obvious that Downton Abbey is in its fifth season and that you need to have seen all of the other episodes to really understand what’s going on. Virtually every happening in this episode draws on events as far back as Season 2. It’s funny how minor characters or people who were only mentioned by name in previous seasons are now getting shine.

The Major Plot Points

The Saga of Lady Edith: As foreshadowed last season, Edith’s secret daughter was sent to live with the Drewe family (tennant farmers in Downton) under the guise of being the daughter of a friend of Tim Drewe.

Last season, Edith told Drewe that the baby belonged to her friend, and Drewe suggested that they change the story so the baby would have no connection to Edith. It’s also hinted at that Drewe sensed what the real story was, but it was left unspoken.

Edith pays a bittersweet visit to the Drewe family to see her daughter, who someone thought was a good idea to name Marigold, at the Drewe’s home. Mrs. Drewe is clueless of the arrangement her husband and Edith made, so she mistakes Edith’s visit as a thirsty attempt to see Tim. I can’t be mad at her for thinking that, because Edith has always acted a bit parched at times. Mr. Drewe tries to ease his wife’s suspicions about Edith by dismissing the accusation.


Later, Drewe tells Edith that he knows her secret, but that he’s not there to judge. He understands her need to see her child and that they need to find a way for Edith to be there. He tells Edith, “We need a way for you to live the truth without telling the truth.”  That line gave me all kinds of feels y’all.

I have a feeling this will turn out to be a terrible idea. The Dowager told Edith last season that bringing the child to Downton would be a huge mistake. The Dowager is almost never wrong so I’m skurred.

I need to take a minute to ask why someone named that poor child Marigold. Why? I’m not saying it’s a horrible name, but what the heck? What’s with all of these flower names? Rose, Violet, Ivy, Daisy…now Marigold. What happened to giving people names from the Bible? Marigold flows off the tongue better than Rhododendron or Geranium so that’s a plus.

Times, they are a-changin’: It’s 1924 and the times are changing swiftly. England has elected a Prime Minister form the Labour Party, much to the chagrin of Lord Grantham (and presumably the rest of the English aristocracy). This development is discussed upstairs and downstairs. Everyone seems to think that the history-making election is good except for Robert and Carson. No surprise there.

As a reflection of the changing times, a man from the village is asked to chair the school board and Carson is asked to chair a committee for the building of Downton’s war memorial.

Robert is especially butthurt because he thought that he would be the obvious choice to chair the memorial committee, but the townsfolk (presumably emboldened by the election) don’t have time for Lord Grantham and throw some serious shade by asking his butler to chair the committee instead.

The Proposition: Anna and Lady Mary have a conversation about English courtship rituals and how it would be nice to know your partner (intellectually and um…biblically) before marriage. Mary seems to be thinking more progressively than Anna on these matters; she doesn’t like the thought of getting married again without…knowing…her husband beforehand.

Lord Gillingham, aka Lord Hottie, must have ESP because the next time he visits Downton he pays Mary a late night visit to discuss secretly going away together to get to ‘know’ one another better. Lord Hottie had me clutching my pearls. I expected Mary to clutch her pearls, but she agreed to the rendezvous.


The Mystery of Baxter is solved: Barrow continues to pump Baxter for information on Anna and Bates. When Baxter refuses to spill the tea, Barrow reminds her that he has tea of his own that he’s ready to share with Lady Grantham. Molesley, who is never far from Baxter (because = obvious), sees what’s happening and convinces Baxter to tell Lady Grantham what Barrow has on her.


Baxter reveals to Lady Grantham that she’s a jewelry thief and that she became a cast member of Orange is the New Black as a result. Lady Grantham is unsure of what to do with Baxter (she knows that she should fire her, but I assume she doesn’t in part because it may be impossible to find another Lady’s Maid). She tells Baxter that she can keep her job…for now. Lady Grantham tries to find out why Baxter stole in the first place, but Baxter suspiciously refuses to give reason.

The Minor Plots

A sordid affair: As a lark, Jimmy sent his former employer (Lady Anstruther, aka Lady Cougar) a Valentine. Apparently, Jimmy and Lady Cougar had a thing going on once upon a time and his correspondence has her wanting to recapture the magic. Jimmy has mixed feelings about it, and shares his reservations with his old pal Barrow. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, Lady Cougar contrives a plan that will put her at the Abbey and in proximity to Jimmy so that she can arrange a tryst.


Lady Anstruther, aka Lady Cougar

The Courtship of Isobel Crawley: The Dowager reveals that Lord Merton (Isobel’s boothang from last season) has asked her to play matchmaker for Isobel and him. Mrs. Crawley lets The Dowager know that he’s not at all interested in anything other than friendship.

When Robert goes to the Dower House to sulk about the village not appointing him to the  memorial committee, he asks The Dowager about the gossip concerning Lord Merton’s crush on Isobel. He comments that marrying Lord Merton would be quite the come-up for Isobel.

The Dowager has an epiphany: If Isobel moves on up, then Isobel will be in a better position than she. That simply can’t happen.

The Dowager decides to oblige to Lord Merton’s request for a luncheon with Isobel, but she makes sure to invite Lady Shackleton (‘memba her from Season 4?) and Dr. Clarkson with the hopes that they will serve as deterrents to Lord Merton making a move on Mrs. Crawley.

When The Dowager invites Dr. Clarkson to the luncheon, we’re given the sense that Dr. Clarkson is still carrying a torch for Isobel and he seems a bit butthurt about Lord Merton being in the picture. I’ve been wanting Dr. Clarkson and Mrs. Crawley to get together since Season 3 so I’m happy they’re bringing this story line back around.

Putting the pieces together: Barrow knows that there’s something up with Bates and not knowing the deets is killing him. Baxter lets slip that she finds it ironic that Bates will be dressing Lord Gillingham during his visit to Downton, and Barrow is all over that morsel of information like a cockroach on a broken off piece of Pop Tart. He suspects that Bates may have had something to do with Green’s untimely death.

More awkwardness for Tom: While the family is having tea (I actually think it’s coffee, which is weird) Lady Rose shares that she has been asked to give out prizes at the village school. Tom mutters something about feeling guilty that he hasn’t done more at the school (which I think is code for feeling bad with how things went with his teacher friend, Miss Bunting). Rose invites him to come to the school with her.

At the school, Tom has a cordial but awkward exchange with Miss Bunting, aka Baby Bunting, where she brings up her awkward visit to the Abbey.


I don’t really know how to read Tom. I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t actually like Baby Bunting as more than a casual friend, but she makes him feel guilty for his new life so he feels like he has to be nice to her so she doesn’t label him. She brings out all of his revolutionary feels and puts the internal conflict over his life after Lady Sybil’s passing out on Front Street. However, I feel like the idea of Tom and Baby Bunting as a thing is being forced on us.

Later, Rose pays a visit to Tom’s office and asks him why he never asks Baby Bunting to the house. Tom says that it would be awkward especially for Lord and Lady Grantham (I don’t know if he ever calls them Robert and Cora). Rose, who we all know thrives on awkwardness, takes it upon herself to get Cora’s approval to invite Baby Bunting to the Grantham’s wedding anniversary celebration.

Non-plot advancing happenings

Daisy’s struggle: Upon receiving the news about the Grantham’s anniversary party, Daisy muses to Mrs. Patmore about what it would be like to be married for that long  and what would happen if they were to ever leave service. Mrs. Patmore has no plans to ever leave, and she reminds Daisy that she will have Mr. Mason’s farm to go to. Daisy frets because she knows nothing of farming. She sets out to improve her skill and knowledge with numbers, much to her own frustration and the concern of Mrs. Patmore.

Molesley’s hair: Molesley decides to dye his hair jet black in an effort to look younger and impress Baxter. Just about everyone notices that something is different but they either say nothing about it or can’t quite put their finger on what’s different. Lord Grantham finally tells Carson to keep Molesley downstairs “…until his hair stops turning blue.” Poor Molesley then tries to reverse the process.


The Climaxes

Climax #1- The Anniversary Dinner: Robert and Cora decide to have a small party to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary, and they ask Mary, Edith, and Rose to invite some of their younger friends.

Rose invited a few friends of hers and Baby Bunting (who initially turned down the invite until she was assured her presence was wanted) because she wanted Tom to have a friend and not look/feel as awkward as he normally does at these affairs. Tom seems a bit uncomfortable with Baby Bunting being there. So much for helping Tom loosen up.

Lord Hottie is there because he was already in the area for business.

Lady Cougar had invited herself for tea earlier in the day and is spending the night ostensibly because her car is broken down, but actually because she wants to…spend time…with Jimmy.

The dinner is The Dowager and Mrs. Crawley’s second party of the day; the first being their luncheon with Lord Merton.

As the food is being served, Lady Cougar slips a note into Jimmy’s pocket and doesn’t go unnoticed by Carson, Lord Hottie, and Mary.


The dinner conversation turns to the war memorial and things threaten to get out of hand.

Baby Bunting, who clearly has no home training, starts talmbout how she thinks that there shouldn’t be a memorial because the war was pointless and the memorial is a waste of money. Lord Hottie and Mary try to give her a chance to tone down her rhetoric, but Baby Bunting has an audience so she ain’t about to act like she has any behavior.


Robert tells her that she’s talking nonsense. Isobel chimes in that Baby Bunting should be allowed to have an opinion. Robert says that Baby Bunting can’t have that opinion at Downton.

Tom tries to fix the mess but Robert butts in with, “She’s here as your guest, so of course you have to defend her.”

Tom gets annoyed and reminds Robert that The Great War resulted in the Russian Revolution, which he hates. Baby Bunting keeps going about how pointless the war was. Robert tells Tom and Baby Bunting that they’re both wrong, but that since it’s a party they don’t need no haterattion and holleration in this dancery…


…but Baby Bunting has no chill and she decides that she’s gonna snatch Robert’s wig in front of God and errbody:


“It’s a pity they didn’t want you on their committee. You put up a stout defense of their intentions.”

And every molecule of air was sucked from that dining room…


…until Carson saved the day.

He spoke up and let errbody in that mug know, especially Baby Bunting, that the committee did want him and that they had a meeting and had elected him as their patron and he agreed with Cora that it was the committee’s plan all along.

The In-between: After the dinner, Carson asks Jimmy if Lady Cougar passed him a note. Jimmy doesn’t really know how to respond, but Barrow jumps in and tells Carson that Lady Cougar did pass Jimmy a note and he threw it away.

Mrs. Hughes tells Carson that Molesley said that he gave Lord Grantham the news about being the war memorial patron. Carson reveals that he told the committee that he wouldn’t serve unless Lord Grantham was patron. He tells Mrs. Hughes to keep that bit on the DL because Lord Grantham ain’t need to know all the business.

Barrow catches Lady Grantham as she’s about to go up for the night. He tries to put Baxter on blast, but Lady Grantham tells him that she already knows and proceeds to read him to filth and hints that his days are numbered if he’s been using his knowledge against Baxter.

Tom approaches Robert in the library after the party breaks up and apologizes for arguing with him at dinner. He tells Robert that he and Baby Bunting didn’t do what Robert thinks they did at the house while the family was in London. Robert says that he’s less concerned about “that” and more concerned that Baby Bunting is turning Tom back into a hater.


Edith settles into bed and is teary-eyed looking a German primer that belonged to Michael Greigson (given to her by Mrs. Hughes earlier) and a baby picture of little Rhododendron. Overcome with emotion, she throws the book across the room, shoves the picture under her pillow, and goes to sleep. The book falls near the fireplace and catches on fire.

Barrow helps Jimmy meet Lady Cougar in her room for a late night rendezvous, and they see Lord Hottie enter Lady Mary’s room (where The Proposition happens).

Climax #2- We didn’t start the fire: As Barrow patrols the gallery, he smells smoke. He looks around the corner and sees smoke coming out of Lady Edith’s room. He throws the door open and sees the room engulfed in flames and Edith laying in bed. He yells fire and heroically runs through the flames and carries Edith out of the room.


Robert comes out on the gallery and starts shouting orders to everyone. The children are taken outside, Mrs. Hughes is alerted, and someone goes to get Isis (Robert’s dog). Robert says that he’s going to check the rooms. Barrow shouts, “Let me check the rooms m’lord,” and Robert tells him no. He runs around the corner and opens the door on Jimmy and Lady Cougar in the middle of consummating their corresponded desires.

The estate fire department comes and puts out the fire.

The Conclusion

Everything but the kitchen sink: As the staff exits the house, many of them are seen carrying paintings, chairs, and different valuables from the house because in a fire, staff is expected to risk their life saving heirlooms.

Nine lives: Lady Grantham approaches Barrow and thanks him for his heroics. She asks him why he was on the gallery. He says that he was keeping an eye on things. Lady Grantham says that she was considering sacking him, but that he’s earned their good will. Somehow Barrow escapes getting sacked…again. Homie is slipperier than snot on a doorknob.

Tardy to the party: Anna and Bates (don’t live at the Abbey) show up after the fire has been put out to make sure that everyone is okay. Anna tells Mary that Bates was “in quite a state” before the arrived.


The Abbey survived! We can all rest easily.

The Sack: Lord Grantham tells Carson that he’s giving Jimmy the sack because he’s not cut out to be a footman. He insists on keeping Carson in the dark about Jimmy’s antics, but tells Carson to give a good reference because they don’t want it talked about.

No real damage: There was no real damage to the house except Edith’s room. Phew!

Living the truth: Edith asks Drewe (who is the leader of the estate fire department) if he’s come up with anything that they can do. Drewe tells her that she is going to take a great interest in Rhododendron, and that they’ll find a good way for her to do so that will be believed and accepted by everyone. As they finish talking, Mrs. Hughes comes up and tells Edith that she will be sleeping in his Lordship’s dressing room. Edith walks away and Mrs. Hughes eyes Drewe suspiciously.


One thought on “Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 1 Recap

  1. Pingback: My predictions for Downton Abbey Season 5 (Part 1) | The Armchair Commentary

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