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Downton Abbey Recap: Season 6, Episode 6

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We can all safely assume that the bloodshed of last week’s episode has been adequately mopped up, because this week begins with the Crawleys planning to open Downton to the general public as a means of charity for—you guessed it—The Hospital.

Robert’s alive, propped up in bed lookin’ a little anemic but otherwise fine, and of course, the Crawleys are feeling thankful and, therefore, charitable. So, it’s essentially going to shape up to be the 1920s version of MTV’s Cribs.

Violet isn’t exactly convinced—“Why should anyone pay to see a perfectly ordinary house?” she says to Isobel, who gives her a look. Isobel’s about as close to normal-people as a Crawley could get, so she knows damn well that people would give an arm to feed their curiosity about how the other half lives.

Not that it matters what she thinks, as Violet’s already moved on to bothering her about whether or not she’s going to get it on with Dickie Merton.

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At Downton, Carson is highly bothered by the thought of people coming into the house, particularly since they might be tempted to steal. The servants sigh, probably thinking, “Sure, go ahead! Less things for me to clean!!!”

He takes a tray up to Robert, who is bedridden this entire episode. Stickler Carson proves that when it comes to his main man Bobby Crawley, he’s not above sneaking a snifter into his jacket.

“Crumbs, that looks frightening!” exclaims Robert, probably having flashbacks to his projectile blood-vomiting burst ulcer that was, if not caused, at least made worse by his functional alcoholism. Much to Carson’s chagrin, he declines the drink. He’ll be abstaining from now on. The world is changing … he’s getting old … clearly things aren’t what they used to be—after all, here they are preparing to show people their home.

“What can we show them so they get their money’s worth?” Robert opines, “Lady Mary in the bath?”

Robert, gross! C’mon!

Safe to assume Carson will be downing that brandy before he even gets downstairs.

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(As an aside—why did Cora wear her dressing gown for like, THE FIVE SECOND WALK FROM ROBERT’S DRESSING ROOM TO THEIR BED. I MEAN WHAT. I don’t know. It’s a big house. Maybe it’s drafty.)

Anna’s not feeling well, but she doesn’t want to tell Lady Mary (in case she feels obligated to take her back to London to that fancy-dancy baby doctor). Bates is like, “No, no, wife, ‘tis my baby, and I’ll pay for it. I am the baby daddy.” Which is very noble, but if my super rich boss offered me very comprehensive healthcare, I would shut up and take it.

The next morning, Carson mentions to Mrs. Hughes that he wouldn’t mind having breakfast at their cottage some mornings instead of in the servants’ hall. He wants to know if she can make coffee, and Hughsie is like, “Of course I canit’s not like it’s hard!

And he’s like, “That’s where you’re wrong.” And I agree! Mrs. Hughes knows a lot of things, but does she know the difference between a Yirgacheffe and classic Columbian profile?

Carson should have just left it at espresso roast, but he goes on and on about having a hall boy come polish the silver so things are up to standard (by which he means, of course, his standard) and then he digs himself a six-foot grave by suggesting that they hire a maid to come in and MAKE THEIR BED because he LIKES DEM SHARP CORNERS.

Poor Mrs. Hughes is about one step away from getting him a subscription to Martha Stewart Living—and making him sleep on the couch.

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Cora arrives at Isobel’s for a Very Important Discussion. Dr. Clarkson is also present, and he’s wearing spectacles, so it must be Very Serious Business. Isobel says she’ll ring for some coffee

(no mention of the blend), and Cora lamely interjects, “Maybe you should ring for some smelling salts.” God, Cora, smelling salts are soooooo 1890s.

It seems that The Board of Governors has sent a letter saying that they will be combining the village hospital with York—the outcome to this Hospital Battle that apparently everyone knew was inevitable, yet they’ve still spent six episodes nattering on about it.

But wait, there’s more!  They have offered Cora the role of President, rather than Violet—who they have suggested should retire. Cora’s all agog. Gee, maybe she was right; smelling salts could be useful here. Cora is literally the only person paler than Robert on this show. I’ve been worried about her B12 levels on a regular basis for the last five years.

Back at Downton, Mary’s off to London to meet with her harem. She invites Tom so that it’s complete and all possible mates are equally represented. She heads upstairs to pack and runs into Barrow, who is giving George a piggyback ride. Mary warns her heir not to bother Barrow, but it’s pretty clear that Barrow isn’t annoyed. He’s become to George what we’ve been made to feel Carson has been to Mary since she was a girl. This isn’t just a ploy to make us empathize with Barrow; it was very common for the children of the house to have their own little friendships with the staff, if anything so they could pilfer biscuits from the kitchen.

Mary looks in on Robert and mentions that she hopes he won’t let Thomas go—he’s so good with the children, but especially George. Robert winces. That may be true, but who has an under butler these days?!

Downstairs, Thomas gets none of this love, and Carson warns him that the world is changing, and they must adapt accordingly (pfft, how un-Carsonlike is that!). He tells Thomas that, insofar as his job as under butler, he’s just not a creature of today.

“And you are?” Thomas rebuts, which is of course 100% the correct response to have to this malarky but definitely not something you should say to your boss who would love any reason to fire you. Luckily, Mrs. Hughes pops in and disrupts the conversation.

Thomas slithers away, and Carson turns to his wife, asking about her plan for their dinner.

She’s not even left work yet, Carson! Simmer down!

“I hope you’re not expecting a banquet,” she says.

“No, I’m expecting a delicious dinner prepared by the fair hand of my beautiful wife,” he gloats. Mrs. Hughes cringes and actually says:

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Mr Molesley is at the village school advocating for Daisy, who is getting ready to sit for her teaching exams. Six of them, apparently. Is this kind of like the SATs? With subject tests?

The head professor seems to think that Molesley would be a good teacher, and he’d like to harness that potential. He asks him to consider taking the teacher-SATs as well.

Molesley is completely chuffed and retreats into fantasies of Mr. Molesley’s Opus.

Violet’s come to remind everyone at Downton—including her still bed-ridden, dark circles-having so—that she is President of all this hospital business. “I shall be magnanimous in victory,” she says—but oh … she knows not that she soon will fall.

Thomas tells Andy to meet him in his room after dinner, saying “the light’s better in there,” which he means for their reading lessons, not for fraternizing. Of course, Mrs. Patmore overhears, and her mind goes directly to hanky-panky.

Anna returns from seeing the city doctor, and he’s informed her that her pain is normal and just ligaments adjusting to her growing belly. In other words: probably sucks, but it’s not dangerous.

Mary’s relieved, but she laughs at the concept: “I don’t think ligaments were invented when I was having Master George.”

Back at Downton, Cora tells Robert about her new role as hospital president, and he’s decidedly meh. He doesn’t really understand why she’d want to work when she clearly doesn’t have to.

“I had a career bringing up my daughters; now they don’t need me …” Cora says, a flicker of empty-nest syndrome in her eyes—despite the fact that both of her adult daughters, the spouse of her deceased daughter, and all her grandchildren ALL live at home still.

“Isn’t it time for a rest?” Robert sighs, and he may well be talking about Cora, but he could also be talking about himself. All this sitting up and ruminating on possibilities is tiring him out.

Cora’s like, “Look, I’m not old.”

And Robert bumbles, “I didn’t say you were old …”

And Cora’s like, *glare* “Didn’t you tho.” *Sashays away.*

Not that Robert ever had a lot of tact to lose, but I think when he vomited a few vital organs on the table last week, he may have lost some of his timing, as well.

Mary and Tom join Henry Talbot, his racing buddy Charlie Rogers, Evelyn Napier!, and some other random socialites for dinner in London. By the end of the night, it seems that Henry has emerged victorious—they depart, and Mary stiffly kisses Evelyn before heading off into the night with Henry. Ya snooze ya lose, Napier!

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Anyway, Tom’s happy. He ships it.

Taking their late night stroll as an opportunity to confess her deepest emotions, Mary tells Henry about Matthew’s car-related demise. He already knows, of course: gossipy Evelyn Napier already told him.

Then it starts to rain, and they run into an alleyway or a passage or something. They laugh. They pause. They kiss—because apparently the Crawley girls have a thing for meeting their lovers in alleyways.

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Back at their cottage, Mrs. Hughes is struggling to present something that satisfies Carson’s refined, increasingly sexist palette. The honeymoon is over, as they say.

When she sits down at last, she sighs, asking what they’ll be drinking with dinner. Carson says that now that His Lordship has decided not to drink, he thinks they should abstain as well. Mrs. Hughes barely manages to contain the horror at the thought of enduring this marriage sober.

Edith’s nice— if not “Olypmically boring” as Mary offered earlier—lover arrives for dinner. He’ll be helping the Crawleys with their open house, because that’s the kind of thing he does. As they head downstairs, Edith pops into the nursery to show off the children—especially the one that is hers but not hers?

“God bless you, Marigold,” whispers Bertie.

God bless you, Bertie Pelham,” whispers I.

Downstairs, Mrs. Hughes laments that she’s a highly experienced housemaid and housekeeper,so why the hell does Carson think she can’t make a bed? More to the point, are the Carsons so modern that they share a bed? And does Carson really want a sniggering maid popping into their bedroom each morning to change their rumpled sheets?

Mrs. Patmore just shrugs, “Well, you always knew he was too old to be trained as a husband.”

Y’know, for someone who has never married, Mrs. Patmore is pretty much always on point when it comes to men.

At dinner, the Crawleys discuss their impending episode of Cribs. Bertie’s actually quite organized about the whole thing and suggests that Mary, Edith, and Cora will have to serve as guides for the guests; it won’t do for them to just wander around unattended, and of course, only certain parts of the house will be open for viewing. They will not be showing off Robert’s sex dungeon, for instance.

Downstairs, the servants are trying to figure who will stand on guard in each location, but poor Anna asks if she’ll be able to sit down before quickly remembering that no one knows she’s pregnant yet. Mrs. Hughes quickly jumps in to qualify the request so that Carson doesn’t ask too many questions.

As they depart, he asks if Mrs. Hughes knows where his walking stick is, as he thinks perhaps he should equip himself with it in case any of the guests turn out to be ruffians.

She basically replies:

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Carson catches a glimpse of Andy leaving Thomas’ room, and our stomachs collectively drop.

Cribs: Downton Edition begins with a line stretching along the drive with people hoping to get a glimpse. It’s like the Crawleys are famous or something!

Cora starts leading her tour group with the confidence of a college junior showing prospects the dorms, and it quickly becomes clear that she doesn’t actually know much about the house at all. As people lob questions at her, it becomes a fast-paced game of “Da fuq is dis?! Da fuq is dat?!” as she sees a bunch of paintings, artwork, and architecture that she’d literally never noticed before.

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Edith isn’t fairing much better, because she doesn’t know the first thing about architecture.

Mary, who usually comes across as knowing everything, doesn’t know the first thing about the paintings in the library, but she gets rescued when Violet comes blasting in. Sort of.

Mary asks her what she can say about the library.

“Built by the 4th Earl. He loved books,” Violet says curtly, and we realize she’s on the warpath, looking for Cora who has BETRAYED her.

“What else did he collect?” Mary presses.

“Horses and women.” Violet says, and huffs off.

Violet proceeds to cause a scene with Cora as a bunch of village folk look on, realizing they’ve got a front row seat to The Real Housewives of Yorkshire.

The Dowager then heads upstairs to rip into Robert, who is still in bed. As she leaves, she’s replaced by a “cheeky rascal”—it seems someone has wandered away from the crowd downstairs, so Robert gets a wee visitor. A saucy little shite this one is, asking Robert why he doesn’t use all his money to buy a house that’s more comfortable.

“You like what you’re used to,” Robert says rather poetically.

Molesley bustles in and shoos the child out, but not before asking if he should shake them down first.

“No, he was more a philosopher than thief,” Robert tells him, looking wistfully from his bed.

Downstairs, Carson fully lays into Thomas about Andy, having heard some suspicions from Mrs. Patmore in addition to having seen with his own eyes something he construed as naughty. Thomas isn’t even given the opportunity to defend himself, and I know it shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

“My word’s not good enough after all these years?” Thomas asks, and although I know it’s something of a cry-wolf situation, wherein he’s been a jerk for so many years that maybe he shouldn’t expect anyone to go out of their way to be kind, it’s not like he’s bad at his job.

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“I only wish it were,” says Carson, with a tone and expression that is anything but sincere.

Carson is often touted as being “a man of his time” when his bigotry, sexism, and homophobia are discussed, nd while this may be true (he’s like the grandpa we all hope won’t say something racist at Thanksgiving dinner), it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach—especially after he gave Thomas the speech earlier about how the world is changing.

The world is changing, but not fast enough for our scheming, smokin’ under butler. Thomas is devastated. The last shot of the episode, which had many comedic high points, is him crying, alone, in the dark. It’s a rather hopeless image.

Upstairs, though, the family muses about how this changing world and how they will have to adapt. Tom suggests they should open the house regularly, not for charity, but to assist in the running of the house.

I’m pretty sure this is how Ponzi schemes start.

“This is weakling talk!” Mary says, sipping her tea, a Bernie Madoff-esque smirk on her lips.

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Minor but possibly relevant plot points:

  • Molesley and Daisy will be taking their exams together! But Daisy’s still being kind of protective of Mr. Mason, so when he shows up—flirting with Mrs. Patmore, no less—Daisy goes apeshit. It’s awkward, and isn’t this the kind of stuff we’d expect from season one Daisy?
  • Mary and Bates are competing to pay for Anna’s medical bills. Apparently Bates has “savings” that he could tap into for the doctor’s fees, but where did that come from, huh, mistah Bates? Probably something untoward. Just take the Crawleys’ poorly invested family money. Forget your pride, Bates!
  • Robert and Cora discuss Edith—such a rare occurrence!—and Robert isn’t exactly thrilled with Bertie, but he won’t object to their union if Edith loves him. He probably figures he won’t be alive to see it happen, so why get another ulcer over it?
  • Baxter has had a letter from her old man wanting her to visit him in prison. Oh my God, Fellowes, just let this plot die already. Baxter (played by wonderful Raquel Cassidy) is underutilized as it is. Why draw attention to it?
  • Mrs. Patmore’s got a telephone in her house so she can run her inn! Hooray! Her niece will help her run it. Hooray! I guess I forgot about this plot being a thing. Hooray!
  • I don’t like Dickie Merton’s daughter-in-law. She seems sneaky, and she’s wearing a lot of beige.

Abby Norman is an author and journalist in New England. Her work has been featured on Medium, The Huffington Post, and Alternet and recommended byTime Magazine and NPR. Her first book, FLARE, a chronicle of chronic illness, is forthcoming from Nation Books/Perseus. She is represented by Tisse Takagi. Follow her on Twitter @notabbynormal.

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