Downton Abbey, Season 5, Ep. 5: “Sweating Like A Beast”

The title of this post is brought to you by Sweet Baxter, who, in one of her many compassionate moments on the servants’ staircase with Skulking Thomas, gently asked if he was okay. When he snarled at her in reply, she pushed her point further. “Are you alright?” she asked, “You are sweating like a beast!”

Indeed. Skulking Thomas aka Barrow was sweating like a beast. He was also white as one of Mrs. Patmore’s meringues, with the sunken, hollowed eyes of a dehydrated mystic. He basically lurched around the entire episode, the sweat beading on his brow as he nearly toppled into the family’s plates at every meal. He looked so ill even the aristocrats became concerned, but still, it was not enough to send him downstairs to his narrow cot to prop up his feet and do whatever it is he’s doing in that little bedroom of his. Sweet Baxter seems to know exactly what he is up to in there. It has something to do with self-electrocution. Enough shocks and Skulking Thomas will be a different man altogether, one who is wooing Daisy Undercook in no time. Sweet Baxter, who understands these things completely, is entirely certain that no amount of self-administered shock therapy is going to make Daisy Undercook the new Mrs. Skulking Barrow, and tries to talk the Skulk out of his ill-advised foray into such territory, but the Skulk, whose brain might be fried but whose tongue remains in good working order, tells her that no amount of electricity would ever make her attractive, so there’s that. It’s another strange and pointless plot line in a show crammed full of meanderings.

"I'm perfectly fine. Now pass me that tray of sausages."

“I’m perfectly fine. Now pass me that tray of sausages.”

In this episode, as ever, there is a great deal of talking with little to show for it. Bates and Bates have a loving moment for the first time in a long time in which they discuss a charming future so far denied to them, that of sitting by the fire being surrounded by a passel of babies, babies they’ve made themselves, which lets the viewers know that it won’t be long now before the male Bates finds the baby-stopper package that the female Bates has squirreled away as a favor to Lady Mary. He will feel betrayed and so forth. He does darkly hint that he will protect the female Bates no matter the cost. She cheerily reassures him that it won’t come to that. Oh yes it will Mrs. Bates. Somebody is gonna pay for hurting you or for you hurting someone else or something like that at some point.

Molesley and Sweet Baxter have a tender moment too, and we are given hope that someday, they will be polishing silver as man and wife. Unless Skulking Thomas can find a way to destroy their happiness, which he seems to feel is his number one priority. Even more important than shocking himself in his room.

Daisy Undercook is still cracking the books, which shows real resolve, since her ranting socialist tutor Miz Bunting will no longer be able to teach Daisy figures and facts about various revolutions. Miz Bunting decided to leave the village in order to take a job at a grammar school in another town. The new job is “a real step up for her”, as Miz Bunting herself put it, which is a funny thing for a socialist to say. A moment before Miz Bunting alighted into the car that will take her far away from Downton and her part-time job of tutoring Daisy and ruining dinner parties, she confesses to Comrade Tom that she loves him. Comrade Tom, who had only just raced down to the village to catch her before she left town, responds to Bunting’s revelation with the same air of frightened acquiescence he always has in her presence.  “I love you!” she pleads with her eyes one last time as Tom gaily helps her into the car that will take her away from him forever and ever. “‘Bye!” Comrade Tom replies. I almost felt sorry for Miz Bunting at that moment, but just almost, because I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of her. Where there are aristocrats, there are dinner parties, and where there are dinner parties, there is Miz Bunting, stuffing her face with rich people’s food while huskily recounting her grievances and slights, both real and imagined.

All Cora’s flirting came to fruition in this episode when Lord Brickface showed up in her bedroom after stopping yet again for an overnight visit at Downton. Lord Brickface needed a break from looking at paintings in London, so he came to Downton to look at Cora. It just so happened that Lord G was out of the house for a rich veteran’s convention, which made it a capital time for ol’ Brickface to show his brickface. But in echo of what happened earlier in London, Lord G changes his plans and pops back home just in time to see Cora and Brickface together, each of them up to their neck in shiny dressing gowns and bathrobes. Yet, slippered and clothed as he was, the fact remains that Brickface had violated the sacred threshold of another man’s bedroom and Lord G was having none of it. The napkin throwing of the previous episode was nothing compared to what happened next, when Lord G tossed skinny Brickface around the room like a sack of potatoes, breathing with the exertion of an angry bull, while Cora screeched on the sidelines, the noise of which summoned Poor Edith from the hallway, where she’s been sleeping ever since her bedroom was destroyed by the fire and no one got around to repairing it. Cora opened the door just a crack to let Poor Edith know that all was well, that mummy and Lord G were just playing a silly game that got out of hand, nothing to see here! This was the low point of the show for me. And for Edith too, who looked skeptical of this obvious lie. Games? I don’t even want to know what that could possibly mean, and Poor Edith feels the same way.

One thing is clear: Lord G has just about had enough of the lot of them (except for Isis), from Bunting to Cora to ol’ Brickface himself, who he kicked out of the house for good this time. I don’t know if Brickface managed to snatch the painting on his way out the door, but I do know it’s gonna be a long time before things get back to normal in the House of Grantham and/or Crawley. Cora has a lot to make up for before she can get back to her day job of giggling on one of the couches while Lord G looks on fondly.

In other news, Lord Merton passed the Doctor’s medical questionnaire with flying colors and he and Isobel seem well on their way to a lifetime of happiness and tending open wounds. The Dowager is put out by all this caste-jumping, but is trying to make the best of things by tracking down one of her own kind who has gone missing, a Princess lost somewhere in Hong Kong. Her ex-nephew-in-law Squishy is tracking down the Princess with all the focus of a bloodhound on the trail of a downed partridge, and thanks to his sleuthing the Princess will be in Yorkshire in no time, playing chess with her husband the Prince under clotheslines heavy with the laundry of her fellow refugees. As further consolation, she will be able to take tea on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Rose.

Rose found love in this episode, when she met a boy she can love for who he is, especially since who he is violates the sanctity of Rose’s pure Norman-Saxon bloodline. What makes Atticus Banker so very perfect for Rose, is that it is quite bad to be love with him, but not quite so bad as all that, if you know what I mean. Leaving my cynicism about Rose’s honorable intentions aside for a moment, I will say that the exchanges between Rose and Atticus among the tea cups was pretty darn sweet and my heart warmed, very, very slightly, toward Rose.

Some other stuff happened with baby Marigold that is too confusing and upsetting to recount, same with Hughes ‘n’ Patmore, who managed to thoroughly patronize Carson and make him look dumb, which benefits no one, and Lady Mary and Lady Mabel faced off in a battle of wills, boyfriends and morals arranged by Charles Blake, Mary’s chum in the pig-saving incident of 1923. Lady Mabel once again came off as a peach of a gal and the real star between the two of them. But Blake only has eyes for Lady Mary. Now all that remains is to neutralize Lord G the Younger, which should be no problem as that is Lady Mary’s speciality.

Be sure to tune in next week as Skulking Thomas’ hair catches fire when the electro-shock machine malfunctions, Molesley misplaces the second-best punch bowl, the Dowager throws a batchelorette party for Isobel, Lord Merton confesses that he can’t stand the sight of sick people, especially if they’re poor, and viewers catch another brief glimpse of Sybbie and George, who rumor has it, are still alive and living off crackers and peanuts they scavenge from the larder while the servants sleep.

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One thought on “Downton Abbey, Season 5, Ep. 5: “Sweating Like A Beast”

  1. Bah! This was so great. I finally watched this episode… we had four snow days last week (one for each inch of snow.) and I never got to watch due to all the Frozen viewings, xbox playing, and sledding into trees action.
    I have to say… when Cora opened the door and said they were “playing a silly game.” I almost spit out my tea. (how can one not drink tea whilst watching Downton?) I decided then and there, she must have really pissed off the writers at some point.
    Ms. Bunting leaving was the highlight for me. And Tom actually telling her she was kind of a jerky-jerk to the family. I don’t believe she loved him, I think she loved the idea of stealing him away and saying, “Nany-nany-boo-boo. I got one of yours! We are off to go raise little socialists together!” (after she ate dinner of course.)
    If it weren’t for the Dowager’s opening quips about the nudist colony, I might not have been able to commit to the whole viewing.

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