Downton Abbey Season Premiere Recap: Edith's Inferno

Is it getting hot at Downton Abbey, or is the building just on fire? (Oh, wait, it’s both.)

The PBS drama made its fiery return Sunday — this is why we can’t have nice things, Edith! — bringing new secrets to light that could jeopardize several of the Abbey’s most prominent residents.

Where do I even start?

LOVE GAMES | Let’s begin with Isobel Crawley, who’s finally being treated like the sex symbol true fans have always known her to be. (Once Dr. Clarkson shows interest, all the boys want to know what’s up, am I right?) She wasn’t really feeling her latest suitor, Dickie Merton — possibly because his name is Dickie, but who am I to judge? — so she turned to the Dowager Countess for a bit of assistance. Never one to pass up the opportunity to manipulate lesser humans, the D.C. used one of her classic sexy luncheons to redirect Dickie’s stinger towards another gorgeous flower, one Lady Shackleton. (Side note: Did you ever expect to see these two ladies enjoying a leisurely girl-talk stroll? Carson wasn’t kidding about this whole “flux” thing. The times, they are a-changing!)

Season 5, Episode 1COLD AS ICE | Speaking of Downton’s most eligible bachelorettes, Lady Mary received a surprise (though not at all unwelcome) visit from Tony Gillingham, who’s still desperate to slip a ring on Mary’s frigid little finger. “Tony, I do love you in my own cold and unfeeling way,” she said, exhibiting a strange self-awareness I wasn’t sure she was capable of. Maybe she started watching the show? Either way, she clarified, “I intend to be as happy with my second husband as I was with my first.” (Here’s hoping she decides to include a “no driving down country roads” clause in her next prenup. Otherwise, what’s the point?)

Season 5, Episode 1EMPLOYEE RELATIONS | But it wasn’t just the ladies of Downton being pursued this week, no sir; Jimmy was also visited by Lady Sally Struthers Anstruther, whom I prefer to think of as the Ghost of Inappropriate Employers Past. She was so eager to get her mitts on his British buns that she invited herself to the Crawleys’ wedding anniversary party, slipped him a naughty note during dinner, then proceeded to ravage him while the damn house burned down. I know it takes two to tango, and Jimmy certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, but I hope Lady Anstruther is willing to help him out after screwing him (over) like that.

HOT FOR TEACHER? | While we’re talking about reunions, we should probably also discuss Tom and that know-nothing/know-everything school teacher Miss Bunting. Rose invited her to the Crawleys’ anniversary party, only for her to ruin Robert’s evening with her anti-war sentiments, which Isobel enthusiastically supported her right to share. (You just know Robert is itching to be like, “Isobel, why are you even here anymore?” #RIPMatthew)

BURNING LOVE | On a much sadder note, can we talk about Lady Edith? I mean, she’s always been the sad one, but watching her cry herself to sleep while thinking about Marigold was like emotional water boarding. (Someone needs to send her a couple of Murphy Brown DVDs so she can see that this whole “single parenting” thing can work, even without a laugh track.) While it’s comforting that Tim is willing to work out a better visiting deal, I don’t see that going too smoothly, considering Margie is already suspicious of her. Besides, isn’t it just a matter of time before Edith’s secret is blown wide open, anyway?

BAXTER’S BAX-TORY | And then there’s Phyllis Baxter, who — despite sharing a first name with my mother — is not to be trusted. Cora’s latest lady’s maid this week revealed her criminal past, namely that she stole jewelry from her previous employer and tried to pass it off as a burglary. Cora decided to keep Baxter on staff for now, mostly because she detested the way Thomas tried to use her past to blackmail her, but said she’s still making up her mind about Baxter’s future at the abbey. (Let’s be real, though… Considering her last lady’s maid forced Cora into a miscarriage, I’m thinking the threat of a few stolen necklaces really isn’t that bad.)

Now, for the finest quotes of the hour:

* “There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like. Avoiding one’s friends, that’s the real test.” — the Dowager Countess, who would definitely hate Facebook if she was alive today.

* “No one takes carriage rides in the park anymore. That’s quite gone.” — the D.C. again. (R.I.P., carriage rides!)

* “Lady Edith chose to set fire to her room, but we’re fine.” — Lady Mary, who’s basically judge, jury and fire marshall all rolled into one.

Your thoughts on Downton‘s fifth season premiere? Drop ’em in the comments section below, then grade the episode and browse photos from the entire season.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. herman1959 says:

    I enjoyed the episode and I thought it hit all of the right notes. That said, I still don’t like Tom’s teacher “friend”, but I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of her as Daisy’s math tutor. Does anyone else think there’s a man involved in Baxter’s backstory?

    • schu says:

      I thought maybe a typical illegitimate child story where she needed something to bribe/trade/care for a kid she had. But maybe a man, she does seem easily controlled/influenced by men…damn Barrow getting off Cora’s bad side so quickly, I was hoping they would have more confrontations, who doesn’t love seeing someone slap that evil smirk off his sly face?

    • Lyn says:

      I agree about the teacher, unfortunately. Am I imagining things or have all of the children suddenly become the same age? Sybbie, George and Marigold all look to be within a month or two in age.
      Good grief I can’t stand Tony Gillingham. Blake would be OK, but Tony would be a huge disappointment for me.

  2. S. says:

    Mary said “Haven’t you heard? I don’t have a heart.” to Anna in S1 and kind of gave her a look. She talked to Matthew about how he saw her versus other people. I think she’s well aware of how she’s seen and she’s nicer than she’s given credit for. I love the barbs and frankly Edith did just set the house on fire.

    • BTM says:

      Agreed about Lady Mary.

      Frankly, considering the decade and status, all the Crawleys are positively heroic in their decency. This is the family with a Dowager who comforts the bleeping scullery maid, for Heaven’s sake!

  3. gts says:

    It’s worth noting that Tony suggested that he and Mary go off for a week to “get to know each other” (so people know what’s up if he ends up dead like the last guys Mary has slept with).

  4. RZ says:

    It was pretty good, yet so much of it was more of the same (Edith unhappy, Mary being pursued, Tom figuring out how to balance his politics and position, Daisy trying to improve her lot in life, Carson wanting to hold on to the old ways). How about some new plot lines?

  5. PFitzDC says:


    Really, Andy? You don’t remember past seasons where she’s made similar comments? She told Matthew that she wishes she could always be the person that HE sees and knows that she doesn’t come off that way most of the time. She said that a few times. And when Sybil died, she made a comment to Edith about how Sybil was the only link to them being friends and that without Sybil, she wasn’t capable of being nicer to Edith. And when she commented about George being an “orphan” early last season, it was in the context that she’s not a particularly warm mother.

  6. ggny says:

    Tony is terrible. They really need to find better suitors for Mary it is killing the whole show imo

    • Lyn says:

      True. What I wouldn’t give to have the likes of Ioan Gruffud [Forever] or John Light [Flambeau on Father Brown Mysteries] to show up as a suitor.

  7. Pati says:

    I only watched half so far but it was really boring I love the show but I just did not make it to the end of this episode

  8. Jenks says:

    Any way to get a recapper who actually watches and likes this show? The Dowager Countess wasn’t doing Isobel a solid — she was directing Lord Dickie to a more appropriate (in her mind) quarter and trying to steer Isobel to the more appropriate (in her mind) doctor. The whole tone of the recap is snide and it’s seriously sketchy on the details. Anyone else at TVLine up for the job?

  9. Donna Edgarton says:

    There’s nothing I’d like to see more than the appearance of Colin Firth as a suitor for Lady Mary! And how about a visit from Kate Winslet? She could play any part, her acting is a joy to behold.. But I must be dreaming!