Edith Crawley, Emotional Punching Bag: The Downton Abbey Recap/Discussion Thread

The arrival of a Mysterious Stranger throws the family into disarray, and I make a halfhearted attempt to resolve the "Did Mary have butt sex or regular sex with the Turkish gentleman?" issue.
Publish date:
February 6, 2012
sadness, Downton Abbey, no we mustn't, PBS

So! I was going to send the following to the show creator, but I don’t have his email address. Instead I’ll share it here as a sort of recap prologue.

Dear Julian Fellowes,

Wikipedia tells me you are a baron! That’s kinda creepy and awesome.

Anyway, there is some confusion amongst my readers as to what kind of sex Lady Mary had with Pamuk the now-dead Turkish diplomat. There seems to be a widespread belief that it was butt sex, based on Pamuk’s assurance that Mary’s virginity would be preserved, but I would be very surprised by that, as I have a hard time imagining Mary relaxing enough in such a circumstance for butt sex to be possible, let alone pleasurable, and she seems to enjoy whatever goes on between them.

Also, if this is the case, did Pamuk bring his own Turkish lube for the occasion? I don’t think lube was a mainstay of Edwardian-era bedside tables as it is today, and it is my understanding (based on secondhand knowledge, I’ll concede) that butt sex sans lube is not always a successful enterprise.

I had always presumed that Pamuk was just lying to Mary and they were sexing it up the old-fashioned way, but I’m willing to be wrong. Thank you enormously for your prompt attention to this important matter.


Lesley Kinzel

Recapper of your show

This week opens with Sir Richard’s nose being out of joint over Mary’s continued attentions to poor sad wheelchair-using Matthew. Watching the two of them out on the lawn from the house, Sir Richard tells Mary’s dad that he’s thinking of buying one of the unoccupied estates near Downton. He talks a lot about money, which does not impress Lord Grantham in the least, because Lord G is the kind of rich where money is sort of gross and an inappropriate topic for friendly conversation, like discussing the details of a bowel movement.

It seems the war is winding down, and not a moment too soon, as all these injured dudes are a serious bummer. Evidently they’re still accepting new patients, however, as a burn victim who claims to be related to the Crawleys has requested he be sent to Downton Abbey for recovery, although no one is sure who exactly he might be.

Cora is mad stoked to get her house back, and of course Isobel can’t bear to see the privileged rich lady go back to her privileged rich lady ways, so she wants to keep Downton Abbey open as some kind of rec center for the community, or something. She’s kind of set on it, and for some unknown reason, neither Cora nor Violet can manage to just say “no” -- instead they decide they’ll have to distract Isobel with a more tempting tragedy.

Sir Richard and Mary go to visit Haxby (?) Park, a nearby estate, and decide to buy it. Mary wonders what they’ll do for furnishings and Sir Richard says they’ll buy some: “Your lot buys it; my lot inherits it.” YES YES WE KNOW SIR RICHARD IS NOT OLD MONEY.

In keeping with the buying-things theme, later he asks Carson to come with them to their new house, ostensibly because he believes it will help make Mary happy. Carson’s heart, of course, belongs to Downton Abbey first, and even Sir Richard’s promise of a large raise does not impress him, and he suggests that his answer would rely on how both Mary and Lord Grantham feel about it.

Lord Grantham is having lots of Lonely Times now that Cora is so busy, and we get several little glances between him and new maid Jane implying that they like-like each other. When an annoyed Lord Grantham is forced to eat lunch alone, he chats up a disheveled Jane who has accidentally wandered into the dining room, asking her about her son.

The Mysterious Stranger arrives at Downton and meets Edith first. Though his face is both badly burned and heavily bandaged, he insists that Edith should recognize him, eventually declaring himself to be Patrick Crawley. Hands up: WHO REMEMBERS PATRICK CRAWLEY? Patrick Crawley died in episode one of the first series of Downton, on the Titanic. So the story goes, he was Mary’s fiance but Edith’s One True Love -- which does sort of explain why Edith is so horrible most of the time.

Edith is FREAKED OUT by Mysterious Stranger’s assertion. See, he had amnesia, like in all good soap opera disappearances, and was Canadian for awhile, and then he got injured in the war suddenly he remembered who he was. Poor Edith looks like she’s going to shatter into a billion sad little pieces when Patrick springs on her that he knew she always loved him. No footage of Edith’s head exploding. That might have blown the budget.

Downstairs: Bates hears from his lawyer. “SURPRISE! You’re not divorced!” says the lawyer. It seems that since Bates gave his evil wife money, that ruined the divorce because apparently paying someone to allow you to divorce them isn’t kosher in early 20th century British law. Because someone who would accept a divorce in exchange for a sum of money is someone who cares enough about their marriage to be forced to continue it. APPARENTLY.

Mary’s on a walk with tidied-up wheelchair-using Matthew, and tells him about her and Sir Richard’s plans to buy a nearby house. She follows this with, “I don’t have to marry him, you know,” and it’s glib and absurd and who knows if she’s telling this to Matthew or trying to convince herself she has any choice in the matter. Matthew gives her an impassioned little speech about how the only reason he hangs out with her is because she’s engaged, and if he thought he was any threat to her impending marriage he’d be a dot on the horizon.

This exchange is sweet and funny and tender but also weird because it seems like the two of them are tacitly acknowledging their feelings for each other and sort of mutually shrugging off the fact that they’ll never be expressed. Then Matthew reaches around and turns the please-get-them-together knife in the audience’s side counterclockwise.

Gross Sir Richard is watching our star-crossed lovers from the house, and concern-trolling Matthew to Cora, saying, “Gee, I really hope Matthew doesn’t off himself when Mary’s married to ME, because he’s gotten so used to all this attention from her!” Paraphrasing. He pressures Cora in his smarmy gross way to get Lavinia on a train STAT so Matthew can re-fall in love with her or whatever. He bascially threatens to dump Mary at the altar if this doesn’t happen. Cora, not being real smart, agrees immediately.

Edith has gone to tell Lord G about the Mysterious Stranger, and Lord G has of course decided to confront him in a typically booming-voiced way. Mysterious Stranger insists on his Patrick-ness but Lord G is extremely dubious, and downright angry, given the impact of such news on Matthew, who besides having suffered The Unrealistic TV Tragedy of Paralysis might now face a life not being the heir to the Crawley fortunes. Lord G promises to investigate further, and before he goes he sees “Patrick” do a really weird mouth-wiping gesture that he clearly recognizes.

It’s probably obvious, but I do not care for the Mysterious Stranger at all, and it’s not just because I luuuv Matthew. Something seems terribly off about him.

Sir Richard has taken his request for Carson’s butlering to Mary, who has taken it to Lord Grantham, who is dressing for the dinner at which he has to tell the assembled family that maaaaybe Patrick Crawley isn’t dead, and of course she gets what she wants.

The post-dinner announcement in the sitting room goes about as well as you’d expect. Edith tries to defend the alleged Patrick, but Mary is OUTRAGED by the suggestion, and openly disgusted at the notion that Matthew might be displaced. She even comes close to tears. In public!

Earlier, Carson busted Mrs. Hughes giving food to former-maid now-single-mother Ethel, and forced her to tell Cora about it, who suggested she would try to prevail upon Major Moustache’s better nature and get him to take responsibility for his offspring. Well, as Cora discovers, it turns out that Major Moustache is dead. Whoops. She privately asks Mrs. Hughes to give Ethel the 411. But no more food!

Elsewhere, Lord Grantham is sitting alone in his darkened library, lost in thought, when new maid Jane wanders in. Again. How is this maid constantly finding herself in rooms she has no reason to be in? She seems to hope it will lead to further conversation but the distracted Lord G leaves instead.

Over dinner downstairs, Bates explains to Anna that he must go to back to London to deal with his evil wife for, what, the fourth time in recent memory? Even trusting wide-eyed Anna is starting to wonder why he thinks he’ll have any more success in this case than in any other, especially now that he has nothing to offer her.

Lord Grantham interrupts the servants’ meal to tell them hey, the war’s over! Everyone is happy.

On a sunny walk over the estate grounds, “Patrick” continues to cozy up to desperate-for-attention Edith by telling her things he “remembers” about them all growing up there. Dude is mad shady, and has a temper tantrum over lunch at his frustration with no one in the family recognizing him. Again, in fairness, he’s badly burned, covered in bandages, and talking like a Canadian. He could be an injured Mike Myers for all the Crawleys know.

Bates returns unexpectedly early from London, with a bruise on his cheek, telling an inquiring Anna that it went not so good, in fact. NOBODY IS SURPRISED, BECAUSE HIS WIFE IS EVIL.

That same evening, Lord G has dug up some information on their Mysterious Stranger that is all rather complicated and not very interesting, but he shares it with the family anyway. Suffice to say there is some evidence that might suggest Patrick survived the shipwreck after all, but his identity is still unproven. Violet remains convinced that “Patrick” is an imposter.

When Edith insists she knows it’s him, Mary pulls some spooky cold-reading John-Edward shit and suggets the Mysterious Stranger has merely made some careful guesses: “‘I remember your pony and your birthday and hiding in the garden from the nasty governess!’ What other memories would you have growing up in a place like this?” Edith is clearly stung because one of her private conversations with Patrick had consisted of exactly those examples.

Lord G has decided to take a wait-and-see approach about Patrick. He apologies directly to Matthew for putting him in such a precarious situation. Matthew, of course, thinks it’s marvelous if an alternate heir with functional legs turns out to be alive because, you know, you need functional legs in order to inherit a lot of money in a proper way. Then he asks everyone to excuse him so he can rub himself with dirt and eat worms.

Sorry everyone, but sometimes the poor-me storylines do wear on me a bit.

The next day, out on the lawn, Edith shares their findings with “Patrick,” saying there is some confusion in the records between Patrick Crawley and a guy called Peter Gordon, so they’re going to investigate Peter Gordon to see what they can learn. Patrick says Peter was his friend who ALSO survived the Titanic sinking, and who ALSO moved to Canada, and maybe he ALSO joined the same regiment and oh maybe the Mysterious Stranger is Peter Gordon after all. Again, it’s shady, and it’s difficult to know who to believe here.

Back at the house, Carson agrees to go with Mary to her new home, and Mary is pleased. Sir Richard has yet to return from London yet, so he can’t share in the good news. He finally turns up after dinner, apologizing for the delay, and surprising everyone with having brought Lavinia with him. Matthew looks enraged, Mary disappointed, Lord Grantham morose. Cora is the only one who is happy, and she eagerly encourages Lavinia to take Matthew into the library so they can talk.

Once there, Lavinia swears that SURE she walked away last time because Matthew insisted on it, but she is TOTALLY going to stay now, because someone else told her to, and poor Lavinia doesn’t seem to have any agency of her own somtimes.

Back in the dining room, Lord G and Cora are having a private discussion about Cora’s meddling. Lord G is not happy to see Lavinia back, and Cora insists that she has done so merely to “ensure the success” of Mary’s impending marriage. Eww. Lord Grantham accuses Cora of being “unfeeling” and Cora brushes it off, whips her hair back and forth, and leaves.

Sir Richard and Mary are ALSO arguing about Lavinia in the hall, when Sir Richard grabs Mary and roughly pulls her aside, threatening her with certain ruin should she jilt him. Then he says he wants to be a good husband, and kisses Mary on the mouth, and I almost threw up.

The following morning, Patrick is gone, having left a note with Sybil for Edith that explains nothing. He signs the note “P Gordon,” and Sybil wonders, “P for Peter, or P for Patrick?” NOW WE’LL NEVER KNOW. Edith is, predictably, despondent, and probably wondering why nothing her works out for her, never ever.

And downstairs, Bates gets a telegram: His wife is dead.

Next week: What’s Matthew feeling? What’s Mary feeling? What’s Lord Grantham feeling? FEELINGS.