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Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episode 6: Let’s see what the future brings

February 9, 2013

Amie Simon writes: This week brings us a two-hour episode filled with major changes for Downton, some excellent rapid-fired quip battles between Isobel and Violet, and perhaps the most scandalous moment ever to take place inside Downton’s walls!

We open on Bates being released from prison directly into Anna’s waiting arms. Hooray! It’s so nice to see Mr. Bates in his valet suit again instead of that dingy prison uniform—and boy am I relieved we’re going to be spared any more boring prison scenes. United at last! Now they can get down to the business of being husband and wife.

As the servants have their breakfast, Bates arrives back home. Newcomers Alfred and Jimmy bust out the awkward questions, and the staff greets Bates warmly while Thomas quietly seethes—oh, right. Bates coming back knocks Thomas off his valet pedestal, doesn’t it?

Upstairs, Edith receives another letter from “the editor,” who asks her to meet him in London so they can discuss the position. Matthew and Branson both think this is great news, but of course Lord Grantham is still being a jerk about it. “Don’t encourage her!” he tells Matthew after she leaves the table. Geez. At least Edith seems determined to make up her own mind. (I hope it works out better for her this time!)

After Edith excuses herself, Robert addresses Matthew about a planned meeting with Jarvis re: the management of the estate. He’s surprised Matthew wants his input at all, because … something-something. Look, Robert, you did lose ALL of the money. ALL of it! And the farms connected to Downton are failing. AND all the cottages were in disrepair before Matthew arrived. I’m just sayin’ – maybe you should give this guy a chance.

On the way out of the breakfast room, Robert encounters Bates and heartily welcomes him back, promising to sort out the Thomas situation. He also hilariously tells him to rest. And read books in bed. What. Anyway, Robert promises to get Jarvis to help find Bates and Anna find a cottage on the grounds so they don’t have to live in separate rooms any more.

Meanwhile, at Crawley House, the Dowager Countess pays Isobel a visit to discuss the “prostitute” problem. Apparently Violet was down with backing Cora’s move to stay put at the luncheon, but is not down with allowing Ethel to stay in Crawley House. “Ethel’s notorious in the village!” Violet exclaims. Isobel isn’t convinced that she’s brought scandal and ruin to the entire family, but the Dowager insists she has, and keeps pushing for Ethel to go elsewhere.

Later, as Robert and Cora walk the grounds with the wet nurse pushing their granddaughter half a mile behind them, they discuss the problem of Branson moving out. Cora insists that he should stay as long as he needs to with the baby, because they “owe it to Sybil.” * sob *

While the servants have some down time (ha-ha), Molesley states the obvious about how Thomas is going to have to find something else to do now that Bates is back, and Alfred mentions a film playing in town about “A wronged woman who survives in the wilderness through her own wits and courage” (Way Down East starring Lillian Gish, 1920) and boldly asks Ivy to go with him … which I almost missed because I was laughing at O’Brien’s response to the movie’s description:

“Blimey. they’ve stolen my story.”

BWHAHAHA. Oh, O’Brien. I’m glad you made me laugh once in this episode, because later on you make me hate you.

Anyway, everyone agrees (including Ivy) that it can’t be just the two of them alone, since that’s not proper. Ivy pointedly asks Jimmy to go, but he declines, and so Mrs. Hughes says they can only go if another girl agrees to go with them.

The aforementioned meeting of the estate minds happens with Matthew, Jarvis, and Robert, and when Matthew brings up his newfangled ways of saving the estate, Robert throws a hissy fit about TOO MUCH CHANGE and refuses to agree with his suggestions. Jarvis isn’t happy about it either, despite Matthew’s insistence that this is the only way Downton will survive.

The Dowager Countess and Edith meet for tea, with Edith desperate to get granny on her side, but Violet is in agreement with Robert that becoming a journalist isn’t an acceptable life choice for a young lady. But bless Edith! She says she’s determined to at least meet with the editor because she’s “had enough of being invisible.” Hurrah! The Dowager softens a bit, and says she’ll try to help sway Robert, but she wants a favor in return. Hmm … I wonder what it is?

During teatime at Crawley House, Isobel sees that Ethel is upset and asks her to fess up. Seems Ethel had a nasty encounter in the village, wherein someone refused her service because of her previous occupation. Isobel tells her to stay strong, but Ethel has to deal with this kind of scorn every day.

The young-footmen rivalry is alive and well in the kitchen, as Jimmy ribs Ivy about her “date” with Alfred, and accuses him of being a sissy for knowing some basic cooking skills. Mrs. Patmore sticks up for Alfred, and Carson calls out James for being a bully, switching up the first footman order for the night—which sends Ivy into defensive mode, complaining about how it’s not fair for James to be passed over.

And thus, one of my favorite lines of the episode from Daisy, “Listen to her! You’re taller than him, you’ve been here longer than him, why are you taking her to the pictures when she talks like that?” She does have a point Alfred. A jealous one, sure, but a point nonetheless: Ivy is just not that into you.

Branson asks Mary if she’ll be little Sybil’s godmother. He says it’s fine that she’s not Catholic because his brother, the godfather, is, and there only needs to be one. Mary accepts, and then tactfully insists that Branson’s brother stay at the house … yikes. That’s quite an offer, and honestly doesn’t seem like such a great idea.

As Jimmy mutters complaints under his breath about Alfred, Thomas gives him some back-stabbing tips—which is when O’Brien starts really laying it on thick, telling Thomas that they “make a cozy couple.” Oh, O’Brien! You wouldn’t. But she does, continuing to tell Thomas that Jimmy talks to Alfred all the time about how awesome Thomas is.

On the way into the dining room, Jimmy tricks Alfred by rearranging the serving utensils on his plate so that they tumble off into the Dowager Countess’s lap, along with some food. Oops! Now Alfred looks bad in Carson’s eyes. No good.

Robert also calls Matthew out at dinner for inviting Murray to come to Downton to “explain” the state of things to everyone. Then, Violet stirs things up with Isobel by asking about Ethel, which causes an insult of epic proportions from Robert. So much tension, and they haven’t even gotten through the first course!

Cora asks about Edith’s plans to meet the editor in London the next morning, and Robert tries to get his mother on his side, but as promised, the Dowager Countess pipes up in support of her … sort of. Basically her view is that Edith is already a spinster, so she might as well find something else to do since no one is going to marry her. YEEEESH.

Branson announces that his brother is opening a business in Liverpool and has asked him to join in as a partner, which prompts Mary to announce in turn that the brother will be staying at Downton, which brings up the christening, which causes Lord Grantham to down his drink in less than two seconds. Dinner is ruined!

Later that night, Jimmy finds Thomas alone in the dining room and complains about how no one likes him, especially not Carson. “Well I like you.” Says Thomas. YES, WE ALL KNEW THAT. He tries to bond with Jimmy, and it seems like it’s almost working … which is exactly when O’Brien comes in and encourages the camaraderie.

And it’s also the exact moment when O’Brien starts to make me hate her, by insisting to Thomas that Alfred has told her Jimmy is interested in him. O’Brien! What are you and your bangs doing?!?! This is not okay.  

On their “date,” Alfred’s being a total puppy dog with Ivy and says he wishes he could take her out every night, but she tells him she doesn’t want him to get the wrong idea. Alfred asks, “If you knew Jimmy wasn’t interested, would that make a difference?” Shades of his aunt, again! I bet a plan is already brewing in his addled little brain.

And here comes the dreaded moment we’ve all been waiting for: after lights out corridor, Thomas cracks open Jimmy’s door and … enters his bedroom! Oh no. I can’t even look. But I have to! Thomas sits on the edge of the sleeping Jimmy’s bed, and bends down to kiss him—right as Alfred walks in to ask Jimmy about Ivy and catches the embrace!

Jimmy wakes up screaming at Thomas, and while Thomas tries to explain about having all the feelings, Alfred stumbles out, Carson wakes up, and poor Thomas is left standing there, heartbroken and scared. I’m surprised (again) about feeling sorry for Thomas, but giving him false hope just to humiliate him was so low of O’Brien, I don’t know if I can forgive her.

Over breakfast the next morning, the three men keep giving each other shifty glances, and Jimmy tries to dispel any funny ideas that Alfred might have about him by being way-over-the-top flirty with Ivy. This is so uncomfortable; I just want it to be over, even though I know they are going to drag it out.

In a happier scene, Edith arrives in London meets with the editor, Michael Gregson, who’s honestly kind of dashing. After the interview, he flirtatiously invites her to lunch the next day to try and convince her to take the position—and she agrees. Edith is so happy she’s positively glowing, and I love it!

While Thomas walks on eggshells around Lord Grantham and distractedly performs his valet duties, and Alfred and Jimmy ghost through their day, a frustrated Carson digs for information, but no one is talking … yet.

Lord Grantham is having a hard time sleeping because he’s so bothered by Matthew taking charge. Cora gives him a what for—saying that Robert himself was the one who declared that Downton was now divided equally between he and Matthew, so he needs suck it up and accept Matthew’s ideas for managing the estate. Good point, Cora!  

Edith arrives for lunch with the editor looking downright pretty in a bright dress, and spills the beans about being left at the altar when Michael declares he’s glad Edith isn’t married. And then she declares that she’s taking the job! YAY! I want things to go well for her so badly.

At Downton, Murray explains to both Robert and Jarvis in plain facts why the estate is pretty much in ruin, and how things need to change. But Matthew gets a little too haughty when claiming there have been a lot of wasteful choices, which puts Jarvis on edge, and Jarvis quits on the spot. Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned, did it?

Branson’s brother, Kieran, arrives, and drunkenly entertains everyone around the servant’s table by telling bawdy jokes. When Tom and Mary arrive to retrieve him and bring him upstairs, Kieran initially resists, but Tom insists join the family. A Branson on the Crawley side of things! Shocker!

O’Brien continues her ruining of Thomas by insisting Alfred tell Carson what he saw when he walked into Jimmy’s bedroom. O’Brien! ENOUGH, ALREADY! STOP IT. I don’t want to hate you, but I really do right now. Later, she tells Alfred that Thomas “has broken all the laws of God and man.” And this is it: I now hate her more than I’ve ever hated her before.

At dinner, Edith is obviously excited about her new job, but first the matter of the christening needs to be settled. Robert seems to be in better spirits about it, joking around about all the “crossing and bobbing up and down” during the service, but Branson shuts him up by saying that he’d like him to be there because he knows it would be important to Sybil to have them all together. * sniff *

Matthew asks Edith how London was, and Edith decides to take this time to tell everyone about her new venture. “Listen everyone, you have a journalist in the family!” The Dowager Countess makes a quip about job diversity, and Mary asks about the editor, to which Edith shyly replies “He’s nice…” Uh-huh. Lady Mary sees right through you, little sister.

Isobel gets the shocking news that Violet has placed an ad in the paper in London to find a new position for Ethel, because The Dowager feels the poor girl would be better off somewhere where her reputation isn’t known. Smart thinking! I don’t think even Isobel can argue with that logic … once she settles down and hears Mrs. Hughes’ opinion on the matter, that is.  

Alfred corners Carson to tell him what he saw, explaining that he caught Thomas in Jimmy’s room, kissing him. But, he also adds that he doesn’t think Jimmy was participating; it appeared to be all Thomas’ fault. So much for O’Brien’s plan to knock out both Thomas and Jimmy with one stone, thus securing first footman status for her nephew.

After dinner, the Dowager Countess drops a bombshell (that I totally saw coming in the last episode, HELLO): Tom should be the new agent in place of Jarvis! Robert initially balks, but Violet explains that it will be a better job than a car mechanic, and that it will keep little Sybil close. Bonus: “We can call him Branson again!” Oh, the hilarity.

Carson calls Thomas into his office and things get a little heated as Thomas explains what was going on in Jimmy’s room. Despite Carson’s obvious disgust, he suggests that they wait and see what Jimmy wants to do before any drastic decisions are made.

The christening takes place, and we’re treated to a series of awkward family photos (especially when the priest joins in), wherein Robert tries to pretend he’s okay with everything, and Matthew and Robert offer Tom the job of managing the estate. It’s still a pretty cute scene all around, though.

Carson calls Thomas back into his office, and tells him that Bates is going to return as Lord Grantham’s valet. This makes it simple for Thomas to resign quietly, citing Bates as his reason for leaving. He also offers to write Thomas a great reference. Carson can’t resist revealing his own revulsion more strongly now, by calling him a foul thing twisted by nature. Oh, hello Carson. I don’t like you very much right now either!

Thomas’ retort: “I’m not foul, Mr. Carson. I’m not the same as you, but I’m not foul.” Well said, sir. Well said. Of course O’Brien was listening to the whole exchange, and Carson catches her looking guilty—and something else. Could it be she feels badly for what she did to Thomas now? NO, it’s just rage that she didn’t get exactly the kind of revenge she wanted.  

The village cricket match is also on everyone’s minds—Lord Grantham is in a tizzy because the village team beat the Downton team last year. This is a huge concern? It’s cricket! He tries to enlist Branson to play, but as it turns out, Tom knows nothing about cricket. Meanwhile, Molesley is busy telling everyone downstairs how awesome he is at it, and swinging his bat inside the hallways nearly taking everyone out.

Robert then tells Mary she looks like she’s in a trance, and she is. What’s up, Lady Mary? I saw that knowing glance you shared with your mama … something is going on. This is especially evident later when she denies Matthew some sweet lovin’ by claiming she’s “too tired.” Are you blind, Lady Mary? SERIOUSLY. 

Still determined to ruin Thomas completely, O’Brien speaks to Jimmy and tells him to out Thomas, or people might think Jimmy LIKED it. It’s official, O’Brien—YOU ARE DEAD TO ME!!! As she’s harassing Jimmy to spill it once again, both Mrs. Patmore and Bates overhear a little bit of what’s going on, and look troubled.

Jimmy finally caves to O’Brien’s pressure and tells Carson it’s his duty to report Thomas to the police … if Carson doesn’t give Thomas a bad reference in addition to letting him go. Carson says NO WAY, because he doesn’t believe in scandal. But Jimmy says he’s going to do it anyway, because, “I don’t believe in sin.”

With his hands tied, and to avoid the shame it will bring on Downton, Carson tells Thomas he cannot give him the promised reference. A distraught Thomas says he’ll never get a job, and totally loses it. Aw, man. Thomas! Don’t cry; I can’t handle it.

In the middle of all this happening, Violet’s great-niece Rose arrives to stay at Downton. She’s 18, beautiful, and apparently quite a handful. At dinner, Rose announces she wants to go to London with Edith to plan a surprise for her mummy! How sweet. Except that her “mummy” already told the Dowager Countess that there’s no way Rose would want to go to London because she hates the city. There is definitely more to this story! Matthew asks to come along too, and Edith agrees that maybe Matthew could help her handle firecracker Rose.

Tom and Matthew have come up with a new scheme together which will make money for Downton, by buying out some of the farms on the land, and he asks Lady Cora to help sway Robert into letting them make this change to the way the estate is managed.  Cora seems iffy about this, but kind of agrees.

Mrs. Hughes finds Thomas sobbing and alone in the rain and dark (this is breaking my heart in so many pieces!) and asks him to tell her the whole story. He confesses that he’s afraid to tell Hughes because it will shock and disgust her, but she leads him inside to get at the truth.

After learning the truth, Hughes approaches Carson about not letting Jimmy blackmail him into letting Thomas go without a reference, and Carson apologizes for her having to listen to “the horrors.” To which Hughes counters, “Do you think he’s the only man of that sort of persuasion I’ve met?” and exclaims that she thinks James may have led him on and given Thomas the wrong impression!

Bates sees Thomas outside smoking, looking defeated. Thomas declares that he envies Bates and his happiness, to which Bates suggests that maybe if Thomas were nicer, maybe more people would like him.

“It’s being nice that got me into trouble. I’ll be gone soon and out of your hair. You’ll be glad of that,” says Thomas in reply. Oh dear. I really don’t like where I think this is going.

As soon as Matthew, Edith, and Rose arrive at Aunt Rosamund’s place in London, Rose ducks into the parlor to make a secret phone call. I smell scandal! Shortly after, Rose gets all dolled up and takes a taxi … somewhere. Could this be the reason her mother didn’t want her to go to London?

Isobel finally tells Ethel what’s going on with the Dowager Countess looking for a better job for her outside the village, and gives her the responses to the ad. She says the only one that looked promising is too near where her son lives with his grandparents, the Bryants, which obviously won’t work since she’s not supposed to see him ever again.

In London, Edith’s editor gets fresh by calling her “pretty.” Edith! Pretty! This may be the only time someone has ever called her that in her life. I’m not sure I even remember Strallan saying so.

While Anna and Bates fix up their new cottage, they discuss the problem of Mr. Barrow, but Bates is now having second thoughts about kicking Thomas out of the valet position after his odd behavior, and asks Mrs. Hughes what’s going on.

Hughes explains the whole business to Bates, and he’s not even that surprised by the news. He is, however, surprised that he feels sorry for Mr. Barrow, even after all Thomas has put him through. That’s our Bates! So compassionate.

Back at Rosamund’s, Rose hasn’t shown up for dinner and her cabbie arrives with news of how he dropped her off at a jazz club! Oh my, this is getting bad, isn’t it? Matthew, Rosalind and Edith arrive at the club to retrieve Rose, and find her making out with one Terrance Margadale, who is, of course, already married. Matthew hastily leads Rose to the dance floor to talk her down and convince her to leave with them.

As she explains that his wife is horrid, and he’s going to divorce her and marry Rose, Matthew wisely says, “Married men who wish to seduce young women always have horrid wives.” So true. He convinces Rose to come home with them with the promise Rosamund and Edith won’t tell a soul about any of these scandalous events. They’re all forgetting about Violet, though, who overhears Edith and Rose talking about it later and figures the whole thing out straight away.

Matthew’s errands in London include going to see a doctor about his “issues.” The doctor tells him to basically chill out and be patient. On the way out, Matthew runs into Mary! This forces them to have lunch together and discuss her lady parts—sort of. She admits that not being able to conceive was not Matthew’s fault, it was all hers—but she’s now an operation that will help, which is why she hasn’t been getting busy with Matthew. All is well and now they can start making beautiful babies!

Bates gives Lord Grantham the scoop on what’s happening with Thomas and Jimmy, and Robert handles the news astonishingly well, admitting to Bates that everyone knew about what type of man Mr. Barrow is, including himself. When Bates adds that O’Brien was the one who whipped Jimmy up into a frenzy about Thomas, Robert seems surprised, as he was thinking O’Brien and Barrow were still allies.

The Dowager Countess sits Rose down to tell her that instead of going to back to London, her mother is sending her to Scotland with her Aunt Agatha. Rose looks terribly disappointed, and gives all the details of her dalliance away to Violet, then pouts about the whole thing not being fair. Smirking, Violet says, “One day you’ll be older and out of our power, but NOT YET!”

Bates tells Thomas that he knows everything and sympathizes with his plight, and a surprised Thomas says prison must have really changed him. Using his newly honed trickery skills, Bates then suggests that perhaps there’s something Thomas knows about O’Brien. But Thomas has given up, saying he knows when he’s been beaten … which is when Bates offers to take it on himself.

Branson and Matthew tell Robert their brilliant idea for making a profit on the estate, but Robert throws a huge “No! Not change!” fit. Lady Cora and Mary look sick throughout the whole discussion, especially when Robert insists they can just “invest” – uuugh. Robert! Cora and Mary have to step in to point out that using Matthew’s money to carry on the illusion that Downton is fine, instead of adapting to the way things truly are, isn’t going to last.

Bates explains to Anna that he’s helping Thomas because he knows what it is to feel powerless. He invites O’Brien to come to their cottage, and over tea, confronts her about framing Thomas. Then he whips out his secret weapon—the knowledge of something terrible O’Brien has done (which we don’t get to hear yet, because he whispers it. No fair!), and tells her to turn things around by this evening or he’ll tell everyone.

A now desperate O’Brien does her best to talk Jimmy out of pressing charges, by saying everyone will hold him in higher esteem if he changes his mind now. Jimmy looks confused, but agrees it might be best.

Lady Edith launches an investigation into Gregson (smart girl!) and then announces at dinner that she’ll have to go back to London because she’s had some bad news. Robert and Carson both try to get Branson to join the cricket team again, despite his numerous protests.

After Lord Grantham declines Matthew’s request to go out and survey the farms with him, Branson delivers a shockingly eloquent speech about how they all three have their specialties, and if they could just pool their strengths, it will give Downton a real chance. Robert promises to think about it … as long as Tom plays cricket. Oh-ho! Nice one.

Having been summoned by the Dowager Countess, Isobel and Ethel arrive to find Mrs. Bryant! Mrs. Bryant has been feeling guilty about separating Charlie from his mother, and encourages Ethel to write to Mrs. Watson and apply for the job near them. Obviously, they have to keep this a secret from Mr. Bryant. That’ll be easy, right?

Edith confronts her editor beau with the news that she knows he is married! OH man. Married! “I find the idea of a married man flirting with me repugnant!” she says, with a promise to resign. Gregson admits he’s married, but that his wife has been in an asylum for years, and he can’t divorce her because a lunatic can’t legally consent. His story is … tragic(ally similar to Mr. Rochester), but what does it mean for the two of them? Edith better change her relationship status to “It’s complicated.”

Finally, the day of the cricket match arrives! Staff and family are all decked out in white cricket gear. During the game, Bates laments keeping Thomas around, as it seems he’s now going to be at Downton for good, and possibly even in a position higher than his valet status. Anna then asks what he whispered to O’Brien, and he says “Something about your ladyship’s soap” They don’t know what it means, but we do! Best revenge ever, Bates.  

Lord Grantham takes an opportunity to tell Jimmy that Thomas will actually be staying on as under butler, then quickly names an upset Jimmy first footman to appease him. Carson is less than thrilled about both developments, but he can’t really contradict his Lordship, so it’s done.  I’m so relieved! I didn’t want to think about a Downton without Thomas.

But it’s not over yet! The York police arrive looking for Alfred, and it’s revealed that he’s made a complaint about Thomas engaging in a criminal act. Lord Grantham approaches Alfred and talks him into taking the complaint back, which for some reason totally works. Alfred tells the police he witnessed some roughhousing between two members of the staff, and misinterpreted it. WHEW.

Branson sees Mary and Matthew giving some love to little Sybil, and realizes that being near the Crawley family is actually important for his daughter. He approaches Cora and offers to live with them while she’s still small. So touching!  

Mary and Matthew have a sweet moment, and Robert agrees to give Matthew and Tom’s plan a go to see what the future brings.

The episode ends with Branson scoring and winning the game. Huzzah!

What’s next for Downton? How will Fellowes wrap this season up? I admit, I’m scared about a lot of things going wrong since this episode ended on a (mostly) high note.


Best line from Dowager Countess:

 “What is The Scarlet Letter? That sounds most unsuitable.”  Re: Edith and Isobel comparing Ethel’s predicament to the plot in the book.


Most scandalous moment:

Thomas stealing into Jimmy’s bedroom and waking him with a kiss at the exact moment Alfred busts in!!!

Most romantic scene:

Matthew to Mary at the cricket match, “I didn’t think it was possible to love as much as I love you.”

Most devastating betrayal:

O’Brien, O’Brien, O’Brien, AND O’Brien. Every time she stabbed Thomas in the back, I died a little.

Most ridiculous bit of soapy melodrama:

Gregson’s BIG secret was a little too Brontë for me to swallow, and I feel like this isn’t the last we’ll hear of it either.

New characters:

Michael Gregson: Editor of The Sketch, who hires Lady Edith to write a weekly column.

Kieran Branson: Tom’s brash older brother – who also seems to have a slight problem with boozing.  

Lady Rose MacClare: The impulsive 18-year-old daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Flintshire, and the Great Niece of the Dowager.

Terrance Margadale: Rose’s (already married) lover!