@lucysky - I completely understand you hating on Robert, because his actions are terrible, but remember, for the time period they weren't. Lord Grantham is not the only character on the show railing against change, but it would have been very hard in particular for an English Lord in 1920 to accept a woman who had both had a child out of wedlock AND become a prostitute. And more-so, to accept his family associating with that woman.
Isobel accepts Ethel because this is her charity work now, and she can see that unmarried women with no fortunes and scandal have limited options, even in "modern" 1920. (Same with Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore - they understand Ethel's choices were out of desperation to stay alive by any means possible.) In my view of the luncheon scene, Cora was only accepting it because she was so angry at her husband, and the rest of the ladies kind of just went along with it as it was happening.
I agree that Robert isn't kind to Branson, but he never has been. He wasn't exactly BFFs with Sir Anthony Strallan, either. He clearly has very strict ideas about his daughters should marry, and uh - honestly, i don't know many loving fathers who don't! :) I'm sure he has no idea about Thomas's sexual preferences -- in fact Mrs. Patmore and O'Brien seem to be the only people that do -- but that doesn't mean they'll accept it when all of it comes to light. I'm not really sure I can think of anybody in the house, family or staff, that will be on Thomas' side when he comes out, as I believe it was still criminal at that time.
I guess my point is, we can't expect the people in Downton will act the way we want them to, just because we're invested in these characters. Robert is being a "bitch", as you say -- but I can't really conceive of him acting otherwise being in the time, place, and station he's in.
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