Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 5 Review: Bad Harvest

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Well, that was completely shocking.

Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 5's biggest moment featured a terrifying and unexpectedly graphic health scare for Lord Grantham. Mid-dinner, he spewed BUCKETS of blood, suffering from a burst ulcer. It was terrifying.

Mary Is On Edge - Downton Abbey

It was fairly clear that Robert was headed towards a health crisis. All season long, he'd complained of stomach pains, and we already knew about his stomach ulcer.

That said, I doubt any viewer realized that Robert's irritable stomach would culminate in a torrent of his blood being coughed up and splattered on poor Cora and that Minister of Health!

This scene stood out in an otherwise unexciting episode. Much like Sybil's death back in Downton Abbey Season 3, this moment was extremely visceral.

The shock and horror on the faces of every guest at the dinner was tangible and felt alarmingly real. The cast did an amazing job in that scene.

Downton has this tendency to go extremely gory when you least expect it. Knocks the wind right out of your sails.

Robert: If this is it, just know that I have loved you very, very much.
Cora: This isn't it, darling. Don't... We won't let this be it.

This exchange between Robert and Cora, when he was sure he would die and wanted only to make sure that she knew of his love for her was very sweet. Although the cynic in me did immediately recall his brief affair a few seasons back, so that kind of put a damper on the moment...

Luckily, Robert pulled through the emergency surgery, as a rattled Carson found out and related to the other servants. It didn't seem likely that the show would kill Robert off (especially not prior to the series finale), so I wasn't particularly surprised when Carson got that call.

In the comments section of my review for Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 4, someone guessed that Robert's medical emergency would lead to him having to be treated at the larger, better equipped hospital. This, then, would cause Violet's change of heart about the hospital merger.

If that happened, it definitely wasn't emphasized here. Of course, it could still be addressed later, but at that point it wouldn't have the same emotional impact as Robert needing to be rushed specifically to the larger hospital right then and there.

Elsewhere, minor subplots abounded (seriously, so many minor subplots).

In the romance department, Mary and Edith both saw movement in their love lives. For once, Edith was coming out ahead in that department.

Bertie Pelham is head over heels for Edith, and it was completely adorable.

Bertie: I suppose you've guessed how much I like you.
Edith: You don't know me.
Bertie: I know you enough to think about you all the time when we're apart.

After writing her a letter asking to meet up when she was next in London, Edith invited Bertie over to her London flat while she was up interviewing female editors to replace the horrid Mr. Skinner.

There, good ol' Bertie put the moves on Edith, inviting her out to a restaurant that he knew she'd love and kissing her right before they left.

Poor Edith did have that incredibly insecure response, but as cringy as that was, it was perfectly in character. Edith's been so unlucky in love and so maligned by Mary that you can't really expect her not to be eternally hesitant when people express their adoration of her.

Mary, meanwhile, was having a decidedly less romantic time in the romance department.

I do think that Mary and Henry Talbot have chemistry (largely because Matthew Goode is a human charisma machine), but it's being squandered in this incredibly asexual, aromantic plot.

Mary was overly concerned about not "marrying down." It was totally ridiculous that she would have that conversation with Tom, of all people – but then again, maybe not so strange. Does she actually have any other friends? It might actually be just Tom.

The issue in a nutshell is that, while Talbot and Mary like each other, Violet and Henry's aunt were right. He's a race car driver. She's the daughter of a lord and the agent of a large estate. Mary also hates cars (with good reason, after Matthew's vehicular death).

Perhaps these are all flimsy excuses on Mary's part; a set of reasons that she's compiled so she doesn't have to actually move on from Matthew.

They certainly feel flimsy. It would be an unfortunate character regression for the Mary who decided that she did want to marry Matthew because she loved him, even if he wasn't the Downton heir, to regress to her pre-Matthew self.

Regardless, this Mary-Henry plot felt incredibly muddied and mainly feels like a contrived storyline designed to delay their inevitable pairing until the penultimate or ultimate episode of the series. In short, it's not terribly engaging. And while I have my issues with Mary, she's such a strong character who deserves a better final storyline than this.

The Marigold secret storyline is not that better storyline, by the way. It's completely shocking and unbelievable that Mary would be able to concentrate on anything but her father after that gruesome collapse, let alone zeroing in on and obsessing over a half-heard remark that Violet made to Cora about the secret of Marigold's real parentage.

For one, what exactly was Mary planning to do with the information, should she have gotten anything about it from steel vault Anna? How can she be thinking about trying to destroy her sister (or whatever) when her father was lying near death in a hospital room?

Turning to the "downstairs" folks, there was plenty of drama floating around amongst  the servants.

Andy, inexplicably super into country life (and into Daisy, it seems), immediately volunteered to be Mr. Mason's farmhand when Mary and Tom came calling about manual labor. Mr. Mason was grateful for the help but also piled a bunch of homework onto Andy – several books' worth of required reading.

Except Andy can't read. Like, at all. Enter Thomas Barrow to save the day.

What a relief! Having accepted Barrow's tutoring offer and cleared the air between them, it seems promising that we'll see at least a slight abatement of chronic sad-sack Thomas.

While being sneery and distinctly unhappy are kind of his trademarks, it is actually very gratifying to occasionally see Thomas not being stepped all over. Here's hoping that tutoring Andy will help a (COMPLETELY PLATONIC) friendship to develop between the two.

Mrs. Baxter was called to court to testify against the awful con man Peter Coyle. She leaned on Mr. Molesley for support (say it with me now: AWWWW), only to find out that Coyle had changed his plea to guilty – making Baxter's testimony unnecessary.

As expected, Baxter had both a sense of relief that she wouldn't need to get mixed up with Coyle again as well as a sense of disappointment that she wouldn't get to air her grievances (sort of 'exorcising' her demons).

This appears to be the end of the Baxter subplot, and the end result is that it brought Baxter and Molesley closer together. Disappointing that Baxter didn't get to have that telling-her-story moment, though.

Mr. Carson proved to be exactly the type of husband that I thought he'd be. All he could manage to do is critique Mrs. Hughes' cooking and "subtly" hint at her taking lessons from Mrs. Patmore. Is Mrs. Hughes already regretting her marriage? Probably not, but this "domestic trials & tribulations" plot is so typical Carson. Dense when it comes to people, and completely groan-worthy.

Finally, Denker once again proved to be totally off her rocker. What was she thinking confronting Dr. Clarkson on Violet's behalf? She clearly has an inflated sense of self, but I honestly don't understand what she expected the outcome of insulting Dr. Clarkson on a semi-busy street would be.

Predictably, Denker conscripted an unwilling Spratt to her cause, after Clarkson's letter to Violet revealed what Denker did and led to her being fired. She got him to speak on her behalf by threatening to tell the truth about Spratt sheltering his fugitive nephew. Again... predictable.

Spratt caved and successfully got Violet to drop the firing idea, but Denker refused to drop the fugitive nephew thing. Proving, once again, that Denker is the absolute worst.

Other thoughts:

  • While I'm not crazy about how the Mary-Henry courtship is going, it is pretty fantastic to see Tom play cupid to them. It's a joy to see him so comfortable with Mary and the family to be poking fun at them, as he was at the pub post-car racing.
  • Did anyone else groan at Talbot's name drop of Evelyn Napier? That poor guy was friend-zoned so hard by Mary. Which is a shame because I always liked him! He was also so kind and nonjudgemental. Hopefully he gets over Mary (finally) and marries.
  • Daisy was feeling weird about other people (namely Mrs. Patmore) hanging around Mr. Mason. Which is odd, because why is she proprietary about Mr. Mason's time? I am all for a Patmore/Mason pairing at this point, so Daisy needs to chill out and stop being such a little weirdo.
  • "Bad harvest" was the cutest Bates family moment in recent history. Fellowes better grant these two non-stop domestic familial bliss for the remainder of this series.
  • "Donk" and "Granny" babysitting the grandkids was the most adorable and most British thing I'd seen in a while. First of all, the fact that they call Cora and Robert Granny and Donk is beyond cute. On top of that, the remarks about Violet's Sphinx-like nature and whether she may or may not be a 'Red Indian' were hilarious.

What did you think of this episode? How do you feel about the way the show is setting to wrap up, given that only three episodes and a Christmas special remain? Remember to watch Downton Abbey online here at TV Fanatic, in case she missed something.

605 Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (6 Votes)

Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 5 Quotes

Anna: Bad harvest, bad harvest.
Bates: What does that mean?
Anna: In the old days, when the crop was good, the farmers used to shout "Bad harvest!" so the gods wouldn't grow jealous of their luck and destroy them.
Bates (shouts): Bad harvest!
Anna: That ought to do it.

Robert: You'll be in a very junior seat.
Violet: Il faut reculer pour mieux sauter. (You have to step back to jump further.)