On Valentine’s Day weekend, it’s fairly appropriate that lots of relationships are tested on this week’s episode of Downton Abbey. Let’s start with Isobel, who accepts Lord Merton’s marriage proposal. She proudly announces the news during dinner to much excitement and congratulations, though Violet remains reserved and distant for the remainder of the night. When Mary approaches her the next day she admits to feeling disappointed, though not for the reasons one might expect.
It’s easy to think that Violet’s jealousy stems from Isobel’s soon -to-increase class status, given her reverence and rigid adherence to old-guard social hierarchy. But in actuality she’s saddened by the departure of her best companion. As a fellow widow, Isobel’s presence, while occasionally combative, has provided Violet with a constancy bordering on soothing. Violet’s admission of her sadness provides the character with a rare moment of vulnerability, one not often seen from the sharp-tongued dowager. It adds a welcome dimension to the character, as even Mary agrees, her grandmama is not one for sentimentality.
While Isobel is initially dazzled by her engagement to the charming Merton, she is less enchanted by his extended family. When his sons make their return to Downton they are nothing but rude and harsh, acknowledging the great disparity in class and background between their dad and his betrothed. Larry, who similarly attacked Tom and his relationship with Sybil, gets kicked out while his remaining brother Timothy’s behavior isn’t too far behind in its scorn. At the end of the night, Merton tries to reassure her that his petulant children are just upset about anyone trying to take the place of their mom, but the look on her face reveals greater distress about her impending nuptials.
And there’s another possibly contentious marriage on the horizon. Atticus proposes to Rose. She says yes, but there’s still a slight hesitancy in her acceptance. The issue of his Jewish heritage is of great importance, especially to his father. The Granthams don’t seem to mind a bit, which makes sense given Cora’s background. But it will be interesting to see how Rose’s parents react, especially her mother. Just how contentious will their difference in religion be in the grand scheme of things?
Meanwhile, Cora learns about Edith’s daughter when Mrs. Drewe tells her about the events that transpired last episode. Cora isn’t as disappointed in Edith, because she’s far more furious that Rosamund and Violet hid the truth from her in the first place. I get that an unwanted pregnancy is incredibly scandalous new in the world of Downton, but Cora is the far more liberal parent (perhaps given her American background). I can understand how crushed she must feel, considering her daughter chose to confide in her aunt and grandmother instead.
Cora heads to London, along with Rosamund and Violet, to fetch Edith and insist she return to Downton, along with her child, Marigold. They hatch a scheme to convince the family that the Drewe’s can no longer afford to raise the girl and that she should live with them instead. While everyone agrees to this arrangement, I’m a bit incredulous that no one will see through the adoption, especially given the timing and confirmation of Mr. Gregson’s death. Anna is already suspicious since she saw the child on the train with Edith before she sneakily asked Mr. Drewe to board. Mary almost saw the incident as well and one can only imagine the fallout if she got wind of her sister’s secret. Her contempt is already so high.
Elsewhere, Mosley urges on Daisy’s studies, Anna and Bates consider buying a house and poor Isis the dog suffers the worst fate of all and dies of cancer. Of course Lord Grantham demonstrates more compassion for his beloved pup than he does his daughters, or at least Edith. I can’t imagine him tending to his illegitimate granddaughter the way he does dying golden retriever, if he ever found out the truth, that is.
Previously: Season 5, Episode 6