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Downton Abbey Season 5, Episode 9: Anything Could Happen

November 2, 2015

Guest blogger Amie Simon wraps up Downton Abbey season 5 with a recap of the finale (AKA "The Christmas Episode" across the pond). As always, we want to warn you that this post is full of spoilers, so don't read through if you haven’t watched yet. 

What a whirlwind Season 5 was! Mary’s scandalous tryst, Edith struggling with hiding her “mom” status, Cora’s almost-infidelity, Rose’s rocky engagement, James and his coif departing, Daisy becoming entranced with London… so many things! 
Since last week’s episode of Downton left us all in despair (and some of us, HAND UP, enraged) over Anna being arrested, it was nice that Fellowes wrapped a lot of things up joyously in the Christmas episode. 
We begin with Lady Mary going to visit poor Anna in jail—something that Carson does not approve of, at all. While depressing, at least we can count on the Dowager to make a good joke about it: “Did she take a cake with a file in it?”
Meanwhile, the Crawleys prepare to depart for Brancaster Castle in Northumberland where Rose’s new father-in-law, Lord Sinderby, has invited them for a grouse-shooting party to celebrate the marriage. Of course Rose’s parents are not invited, because: DIVORCE. Since Bates is staying behind so he can visit Anna, a very pleased Thomas Barrow gets the privilege of acting as Lord Grantham’s valet, which he can barely contain his glee about—until he arrives at Brancaster and is given the smack down by Sinderby’s uptight Butler, Stowell. 
Violet and Isobel are staying behind to reunite the recently found Princess Irina with her beloved Russian Prince Kuragin… although the Prince seems less-than-thrilled with this prospect. Isobel presses the Dowager about the motives behind the reunion, but all Violet will say is that it must take place. 
While the staff packs everything for the family, Carson is also in hot pursuit of a Bed and Breakfast that he and Hughes can run after retirement. She seems a little taken aback by his command of the situation (I have never seen eyebrows raised so many times in a row), but still game for the adventure. 
While traveling, Robert seems to be in pain and won’t answer Cora’s questions about why he went off to York or about what’s wrong, no matter how much she insists. He brushes her off with a “stop fussing.” And that’s that… or is it? Edith fusses over leaving Marigold behind to the point where Mary quips, “Why don’t you just lock them up in a box until they’re 21,” followed by a pointed, “Well honestly, I’m the mother and I’m not panicking.” Eeeeeesh. I keep waiting for Edith to reach a breaking point and just start screaming, “I’M A MOM TOO! I’M A MOM TOO.” 
At Brancaster, poor Branson gets attitude immediately from Stowell, and the unpleasant Sinderby gets even more unpleasant (who thought that was possible?), barely containing his displeasure over Rose and the Crawleys being welcomed into his home. 
Back home, Isobel and Violet plan out the dinner party for the Prince and Princess. Honestly, this whole thing sounds like a disaster! Violet also reveals that Lord Merton is coming, despite the tension between Dickie and Isobel over his rotten, ungrateful sons. 
At the Dowager’s house, Spratt and Denker continue to play the “Who’s a better servant?” game, with Spratt issuing a challenge to Denker to make a delicious “restorative” broth. With the first punch thrown, Denker starts scheming on how to produce it while Spratt plans his reveal of her incompetence. 
At the prison, a devastated Anna tells Bates that the investigators have found something out that may prove murder is in her nature! When she was little, her stepfather behaved abusively to her and she defended herself by threatening, then cutting him with a knife. Even though her stepfather didn’t press charges, it still could come to light. Noooooooo! 
After watching Butler Stowell dis Tom more than a few times, Mary asks Baxter to have Barrow find out something about Stowell so they can “take him down a peg or two.” Baxter looks nervous, but asks Thomas to help out. Oh, Barrow! It’s scary how his face lights up at the prospect of planning sabotage. 
The most awkward party ever assembles at Violet’s for the big reunion of the Prince and Princess. It’s apparent that Igor is still in love with the Dowager, and oh my, Irina is not a very pleasant person. Poor Igor! Everyone tries to smooth things out by being polite, but the Princess can only complain. She calls Violet out on her long-ago indiscretion by saying, “Last time we met, the circumstances were rather different.” OUCH.  
The results of Barrow’s scheme are presented at dinner when Sinderby is delivered a bland dish, which results in the Lord reprimanding his Butler, yelling at him (and Barrow!) in front of the whole party. Rose and Cora quickly change the subject, and Mary is secretly pleased—although she theorizes that Barrow will not like being called “a stupid fool.” 
In the aftermath of the dinner party at the Dowager’s house (a “colorful evening” indeed), Prince Kuragin presses Violet to make a decision about him, as he’s still in love with her.  But the Dowager must stick to proper rules, and knowing the Princess is alive and well, she turns him down. Awe, sad. 
At the castle, Cora finally gets Robert to spill the problem: he’s having chest pains, which may mean a heart condition! The discussion spurs him to speak to Edith and make it clear that everything is all right between them, just in case. “It’s not the way I’d have had things. But this is what’s happened. I believe Gregson was an honorable man.” How lovely! 
Thomas “I’ve got bigger plans now” Barrow plots his revenge by approaching Stowell under the guise of sympathy and getting him to spill secrets about Lord Sinderby. THIS is going to be interesting!
Lord Merton continues his pursuit of Isobel, but although she admits she loves him, she’s still dead set on not marrying him because of his sons’ disapproval. Merton vows to convince his sons to accept her so they can live their lives together happily.
Mrs. Hughes finally breaks down and tells Carson she can’t roll on with this whole Bed & Breakfast charade, because she has a sister she must care for, which means she has no savings and can’t retire. Carson looks devastated, but is about to say something else when they’re interrupted. 
During the shooting party, two handsome young men arrive: one for Mary, and one for … Edith! Wait, is this the return of “Mary’s Men?” It seems so. Mary spends the afternoon chatting up Henry Talbot, who seems very intrigued by her—and Edith spends some time with the Castle’s agent, Bertie Pelham. Shooting parties are so romantic! 
Daisy and Mrs. Patmore have agreed to help Denker best Spratt by making a delicious broth for her, but unfortunately Spratt catches Daisy delivering the goods, calls out Denker, and pours the broth down the drain! Denker is now stuck making it from scratch to save face with the Dowager.   
Despite Lord Merton’s best efforts, Isobel receives a letter from his son saying that he won’t be persuaded to change his mind—nor will she. Violet quips that “Dr. Clarkson will be delighted!” but Isobel doesn’t find anything funny about it. 
After that terribly romantic shooting party, the group returns to the Castle for tea when Barrow’s revenge rears its ugly head as… Lord Sinderby’s secret lover, Diana Clark! With his secret son, Daniel! At first, Robert doesn’t understand who the woman is, but Mary figures it out quickly, feeling badly that her plan to ruin Stowell is now on the verge of ruining Sinderby. 
Thankfully, Rose steps in to save the day by pretending that Diana is her good friend, whose visit is a happy surprise! Robert and Mary also step in to pretend that they know Diana, and Lord Sinderby’s wife, Rachel, remains blissfully unaware of Diana’s real connection to her husband. 
Back at Downton, Bates gives Molesley some mysterious letters to deliver to Mr. Carson, and sets off on a rescue mission for Anna. Later, it’s revealed that the letters are a confession… I … I can’t even. So the only way Bates can save Anna is to pretend he’s murdered Green and go on the lam for something he didn’t do? I don’t get it. 
Anyway… after Rose approaches Stowell and tells him she won’t reveal his part in the Diana disaster as long as he’s more polite to Branson, Sinderby pulls Mary, Robert, and Rose into the study and praises Rose, telling everyone he’s realized he’s very lucky to have her in the family. SHOCKER! He’s even going to invite her (DIVORCED) parents to his home. What. 
Despite the swinging jazz music coming from Sinderby’s new Gramophone and the gorgeousness of the ladies’ flapper dresses, the dancing looks so formal and stiff. These people need some lessons… or maybe just some cocktails. Talbot and Pelham continue to impress—and be impressed with—Mary and Edith, and I love it! 
Although I suspect there’s something about Talbot being really “into cars” and the way that Matthew died that is going to bubble up next season and ruin everything.  
Branson tells Edith he knows who Marigold is, which means that Mary is now the only one in the entire family that doesn’t know the truth. Man, is Mary going to feel bad once she learns Marigold is Edith’s actual daughter. Or… will she? She is Ice Queen Mary, after all. 
The real shocker of this episode, though, is Robert actually asking Cora for advice! He tells her that Bates left instructions on how to contact him, and they debate going to the police. Cora agrees they shouldn’t contact the authorities until they know more, to which Robert replies, “Thank heaven we both have a criminal turn of mind.” 
Sure enough, Anna is let out on bail due to Bates’ confession. The Crawleys vow to work together to prove that Anna and Bates are BOTH innocent. YES. Can this be true? Dare we hope for a happy ending? I’m a little scared to… 
In the Dowager’s kitchen, the war between Spratt and Denker rages on. “Your unmasking is at hand,” he tells her. But Violet shows Spratt a thing or two by tasting the broth and declaring it’s delicious. “Thank you, Denker, very much. I’m not hungry enough to do it justice this evening. Let us… save its delights for another day.” TAKE THAT, Spratt! 
As the episode winds down, Robert reveals he is free of a heart condition, but he has an ulcer. Cora says they will fix it with dietary restrictions, including “No alcohol” – to which Robert balks, “STEADY ON!” They agree that he’ll lay off everything until Christmas Eve, at least. He also announces the sale of the painting that stirred up all that trouble with Cora’s admirer, Simon Bricker, which means Downton has some money again! 
Isobel breaks the news to Lord Merton, who leaves heartbroken just as Violet enters the room. I have a feeling that the guy still won’t give up, but I kind of want him to, because at this point I think Isobel doesn’t deserve him. Violet eschewing her Russian beau at least makes sense given his reunion with his wife, but this is just silly. Why should Merton’s sons get what they want? 
Hey, what’s this? I might be coming around on Molesley, after he and Mrs. Baxter visit nearly EVERY SINGLE pub in York and manage to find the one Bates stayed at! These two are totally going to save the day, proving Bates’ innocence, while also proving that the Detectives investigating Green’s murder are completely incompetent. 
And now for the tears. All the tears. Every single one of them. Mary, Edith, and Tom meet up in the children’s room to hang Christmas stockings on their beds when Tom brings up Sybil, and asks if they might all have remembrance of her before he leaves for Boston. Just the mention of her name makes me sob! And seeing Edith and Mary holding hands, no less! 
At least now BFFs Violet and Isobel can help each other through their respective heartbreaks, as the Dowager finally spills the details on her dalliance with the Russian Prince: They fell madly in love and had actually started to run away together when the Princess caught up with them and physically dragged Violet out of the carriage. Violet’s opinion is that Irina actually saved her from ruin, since she was already married to Lord Grantham and had children at home.
Also, this exchange is the BEST EVER:  
Isobel: “And you never strayed again?” 
Violet: “I never risked everything again.”
Isobel: “That’s not quite what I asked.”
Violet: “That’s all the answer you’ll get.” 
Branson’s last lovely act at Downton is to save Donk, I mean Robert, from making an embarrassingly drunken speech. (I like to imagine it was something along the lines of, “I LOVE YOU GUYSSSEEE! YOU’RE GREAT!!!”) He tells Tom later that he’s grown extremely fond of him, and that he hopes he’ll always consider Downton Abbey his home. 
Wait! I was wrong about the above exchange between Isobel and Violet being the best ever. The BEST BEST EVER is when Carson tells Mrs. Hughes that he’s registered the B&B in both of their names, and when Hughes replies, “You don’t want to be stuck with me,” Carson is all “That’s the point.” Mrs. Hughes: “What is?” Mr. Carson: “I do want to be stuck with you.” He asks her to marry him and she agrees! YAY! All of “Hugheson” ‘shipping wishes have been granted!!! 
And the good holiday feelings roll on with the return of Mr. Bates, who surprises Anna, sweeps her into his arms, and twirls her in a passionate embrace. “We’ll worry about everything else later. But for now let’s just have a very happy Christmas,” he says. All right, sure! Can we please just have resolution on this and not revisit it next season? That would be my preference, any way. 
Thanks for reading and commenting, Downton fans! I guess we’ll have to wait until next season to find out if Daisy has a crush on the newly hired footman, young Andrew… and how hard she’ll have to fight Barrow for him… among other things. 
Season 5 Big Moments: 
Best line from Dowager Countess: 
“Oh, it is you! I thought it was a man in your clothes.” (To Mary, re: her new stylish bob) 
Best line from Isobel Crawley: 
“You’re as infirm as Windsor Castle.” (To Violet, re: her complaint of being old and infirm)
Most scandalous moment: 
Lord Sinderby almost won this category with his secret mistress and son, but I’m going to give it to Mary for first arranging to sleep with Tony Gillingham, and then dumping him unceremoniously almost directly afterwards, reputation be damned. 
Most heartbreaking moment: 
Saying goodbye to Isis, no question. I don’t think I can forgive Fellowes for KILLING THE DOG. 
Most romantic moment: 
I’ll throw Anna & Bates some love just for that prison scene where she asked him if he ever doubted her innocence, and his reply was, “I don’t doubt. And I don’t doubt that the sun will rise in the East either.” 
Most devastating betrayal:  
Thomas Barrow, betraying himself with that ridiculous snake oil “cure” for his homosexuality. Props to Mrs. Baxter and Doctor Clarkson for helping him through it, and telling him that he’s just fine the way he is. 
Most surprising reveal: 
The Dowager’s long-ago dalliance with her Russian Prince! Violet allowed herself to be carried away to the point of almost ruin? No. Freaking. Way. 
Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE



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Now one i know will accept an invitation to any other event-- "I am not missing "Downton Abbey"
they say....That includes me!

Please continue the series!

I just watched the Season Finale for a second time and I can say definitively that it is my favorite episode of Downton to date. Finally, the Christmas Special (as it is apparently called in Britain) felt like a Christmas episode. I found myself singing along with the carols. On that note, I thought I knew all the verses to Silent Night, but I did not recognize the lyrics Mary was singing. Where did Julian Fellowes find them?

A pitch-perfect send-off for Tom Branson. It was so beautiful to see Mary and Edith truly embrace him as a brother, and that Robert genuinely regards him as a son, much as he did Matthew. It turns out he is the one man who will never judge the ladies for any impropriety.

Lady Rose has officially won me over. In Season Four I had wondered if she was nieve and perhaps hedonistic. But it turns out Rose just has a genuinely generous heart. Robert's description of her, that "she will love you forever if you will let her," is quite beautiful. To borrow from a famous Christmas novella: "may that truly be said of us, and all of us."

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