‘Downton Abbey’ recap: Is Mary ready to be married again?

January 19

There’s a pall over Downton as the show begins this week. Anna is sitting by herself furiously polishing a pair of boots and the last thing you want to think about is whatever it is she’s thinking about. When Mr. Green violently attacked and raped her in last week’s episode, it represented as dark a moment as Downton has seen.

This week picks up the thread the following morning with all of the downstairs staff sitting down for breakfast. Anna is seated next to Mr. Green for just a few moments before she quickly excuses herself. Only Anna, Green and the steadfast Mrs. Hughes know what has transpired. Bates only knows that something has changed. The rest may be oblivious, but menace hangs in the air. Green acts as if nothing has happened. “I shall remember this visit for a long time to come,” he tells Carson with a quiet malevolence, and it’s enough to make you feel sick all over again.

Upstairs Lady Grantham and Lady Mary note that something is amiss with Anna, but neither works very hard to find out what it is. There are other things to worry about after all. Mary’s future, for one. The handsome and kind Lord Gillingham has not been shy about his interest in Lady Mary and proposes that she visit him when she comes to London. She declines, but what kind of show would it be if she didn’t end up seeing him?

The day after their one-night fling, Edna makes a strong play for Tom — and for a loftier presence at Downton. “Suppose I’m pregnant,” she tells him. “I must be sure that you’ll marry me if I’m carrying your child.” Edna is a leeeetle bit scary. She tells Tom he’ll regret it if he tries to move on without her. “I’m already full of regrets,” Tom replies. “There is nothing but regret in me.” I believe him.

Lady Mary, Tom and the ditzy Rose head off to London to stay with Aunt Rosamund, who just happens to have arranged a get together with Lord Gillingham. They all head off to a local club featuring a band led by an African American singer. (And let me stop right here and ask, is there anything more surprising than seeing a black person on “Downton Abbey”? It’s almost like seeing a black person on one of the Sunday morning talk shows. Okay, back to the recap.)

Rose is dancing with her falling-down-drunk suitor, who proceeds to head out of the scene to throw up. Thank you, “Downton,” for sparing us that. Rose is rescued by the singer, Jack Ross, who dances with her until Tom is sent by Aunt Rosamund to escort Rose away from him. It’s a little early in the century for interracial romance. But I have a feeling we’ll see more of Jack Ross in future episodes.

Upon returning to Downton, Anna follows her plan to move back inside the house and away from her husband, Mr. Bates. “I can’t let him touch me,” she tells Mrs. Hughes. The horrible damage that Mr. Green has caused to Anna and her marriage to Bates is going to be a painful to witness throughout the season.

Mary has also returned to Downton and so too, sneakily, has Mr. Gillingham. He just can’t help himself. He’s in love. “It’s not complicated,” he tells her. “I made a long journey to ask a short question. Will you marry me?” As 17-word proposals go, that’s a pretty great one. Mary is tempted, but eventually has to say no. Matthew is still too much with her.

Meanwhile, there are a few other plots a-blooming:

Poor Lady Edith hears it from her aunt after she stays the night at her soon-to-be-a-German beau’s house. Edith just can’t win, I’m afraid. I don’t have a lot of hope for this working out well for her.

Isobel Crawley and Dr. Clarkson cross paths in the church graveyard and it’s hard to ignore Clarkson’s hopeful mien. He may win Isobel over yet. And Isobel has never appeared more graceful or sympathetic than she has in this season’s first episodes. She has handled her son Matthew’s death with something approaching saintliness.

Mr. Barrow hasn’t had nearly enough of a role this year. I hope they’ll find something more for him.

The kitchen merry-go-round that has Jimmy, Ivy, Daisy and Alfred all flirting and fussing about each other is becoming difficult to follow. I hardly know who to root for, though I’m sure a spinoff about Daisy and Alfred getting married and having kids would be a hit.

How would downstairs get along without Mrs. Hughes? She handles every problem, counsels grief, fixes hearts and still manages to run the household. Now if she can just figure out Mr. Carson.

Tom has fended off Edna, and Mary has turned down Lord Gillingham. That leaves the door open for Tom and Mary eventually falling in love and getting married, and that would be awesome because their kids would be stepbrother and sister and cousins. Please, “Downton,” make that happen.

My favorite lines this week:

Mary: “Edith is about as mysterious as a bucket.” Now that’s the Lady Mary we remember.

Lord Grantham: “The damage cannot be irreparable when a man and a woman love each other as much as you do. My goodness, that was strong talk for an Englishman.” The first sentence is eye-rolling. The second one saves it.

Previous Season 4 recaps:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Joe Heim is an editor and writer for The Washington Post magazine where he writes Just Asking, a weekly Q&A column. He has recently written about candy, not saving for your kids for college, Downton Abbey, the role of presidents as consolers-in-chief and about Washingtonians personal experiences with gun violence.
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