Mary's sexy getaway with Tony, meanwhile, felt like it was riding an uncomfortable middle ground between actually daring (it wasn't; everything was so chaste and polite in that opening post-coital scene) and genuinely romantic, but there seems to be precious little heat in their scenes these days.
All that said, Mary's entire pre-marital subplot has been worth it for the sequence of events in which Spratt (that self-satisfied goon) ratted out Mary to her grandmother. It afforded us an excellent moment where the Dowager Countess thought quickly to cover for Mary, but then wasted no time in getting all up in Mary's business about it later on. Bonus points for her rather meta lecture to Mary: "Don't let us hide behind the changing times, my dear." You first, Downton.
Gilbert: It did rather feel like all the sexual chemistry missing from Mary and Lord Gillingham’s Liverpool love nest had been extracted for the purposes of injecting it into the reunion of Violet and her former Russian acquaintance. To clarify: It seems like nothing more untoward occurred than two married people meeting in St. Petersburg, being attracted to each other, and one giving the other a fan (and really, who hasn’t been given an antique relic in the Winter Palace by a long-haired gentleman with Slavic charm and bedroom eyes?), but it’s clear enough that the moment was significant for both of them. And yes, the Dowager Countess deserves a romantic interlude more than Daisy deserves a day off, so please let’s have more of this and less of the godforsaken war memorial storyline, as sorry as I am for Mrs. Patmore and her nephew. But please, Downton, stop boring us for the length of a bible and then dropping things like blazing infernos and Violet's secret past in right at the end so we tune in next week. It's tacky.
Back to Mary for a moment: Has anyone in the history of England ever been quite so pale? She almost disappeared when she was sitting in her chalk-colored nightgown amid the sheets, even with Tony making ghastly “vulgar” jokes about working up an appetite. Maybe it’s a sign that he leaves her cold, or maybe it’s just that they don’t get much daylight in Yorkshire. Regardless, it’s clear that a week in bed with boring old Tony has rather dampened her enthusiasm for him, and now he thinks they’re getting married, and her grandmother thinks they are too, because in her day “a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she’d been instructed to do so by her mamma.” (Which is, when you think about it, absolutely horrifying, and worse than the worst birds-and-bees talk that was ever had. Also: untrue, as Violet later unwittingly proved.)
So, sorry Tony, but it looks like you’re on the outs. Also trending in a downwards direction is Lord Grantham, who was the most supercilious, vile, and sexist he has ever been in this episode, and boy is that saying something. If, gentlemen, you show up in London unexpectedly after clearly stating to your wife that you were staying at your estate in Yorkshire, do not then throw a fit when she comes home late and imply that no one could ever respect her for her brain. This is the kind of behavior that throws women smack into the arms of slightly oily art historians, who promise to appreciate their views on Piero della Francesca and the magpies of Umbria. Lord G., you deserve everything that comes to you, and more. Even Miss Bunting, who of course goes to a tea party full of displaced Russian aristocrats and praises Trotsky to the heavens. No tact, that one.