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Downton Abbey Recap: Series 6, Episode 3

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Episode 3 begins with BFFs Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore trudging up the 3,000 miles of stairs to the servants’ quarters nestled in the attics of Downton. Mrs. Patmore is a bit miffed that Mrs. Hughes doesn’t seem more excited about being on the brink of wedded bliss. Mrs Hughes responds by saying, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the brink of anything—except maybe the grave.” Savage!

She laments that she’d really prefer to have a normal-person wedding, as opposed to doing what posh folk do, which apparently includes standing around eating hors d’oeuvres while “nibbly bits get stuck in their teeth.” Duly noted: The Carson wedding will be a crudités-free zone.

Mrs. Patmore recoils at the dress Mrs. Hughes plans to wear to her wedding: a sullen brown day dress that’s been living in her wardrobe since 1856. Mrs. Patmore explains that there are things called “catalogs” where you can EXCHANGE MONEY FOR GOODS and they will come in the mail to you—even dresses, which would likely be better than the abominable frock in question. Mrs. Hughes huffs, explaining that she knows damn well what a catalog is and that she’s “too old to think a new dress will solve anything much.” Someone take this poor woman to Kleinfeld’s.

Robert waltzes into the library only to find his mother sitting there perched and ready for a fight. She’s come to complain more about this hospital business. She seems surprised he’s heard about it already, and Robert reminds her that he does talk to his wife occasionally. Violet scoffs. Robert drinks his tea.

Edith barges in to say she’s off to London to rescue her magazine, which is being driven into the ground by her totally inept editor.

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She disappears from the room, and no one notices that she was ever there. Mary struts in to show us her new frock, which is totally fetch. Violet makes to leave, lest she run into Cora (now that 2 of 3 Crawley women have made their entrances into the library) but not without first throwing her cane up in a comedic display of en garde.

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Mary scoffs. Robert drinks his tea and frowns.

Cora is actually downstairs in the kitchen speaking with Mrs. Patmore about the food for the wedding, and the cook implies that Mrs. Hughes feels Mary has bullied Carson into having the reception at Downton. Cora is sad of this, perhaps even slightly empathetic—we can only imagine that her wedding was practically arranged by Violet.

Meanwhile, back at the Dower House, Spratt is collecting stamps while Denker is collecting opportunities to ridicule him. A knock at the door leads Spratt to do some worried whispering, which Denker concerns herself with. Spratt has a secret! :O

Lady Mary and Anna converse about a number of topics, including a very maudlin letter from Branson wherein he tells Mary he had a dream about Downton and cried. Mary does think this is quite sad, but her feelings do not betray her cool exterior. Anna mentions that Mrs. Hughes has the literal worst wedding dress in the history of all time and she doesn’t know what to do about it. Mary offers to lend her a broach, which doesn’t sound generous, but consider this: Mary Crawley probably owns $10,000 broaches.

Before departing for the night, Anna makes a smiley I’ve-got-a-secret face and proceeds to tell Mary that she might be pregnant but she’s not going to get excited until she’s sure. Mary is actually extremely excited but agrees to pocket her feelings for a later scene.

At dinner, Cora requests the presence of Mrs. Hughes in the drawing room. Carson’s eyebrows detach from his face and float to the ceiling.

When they all go through, Mrs. Hughes is brought before an audience of posh people where Cora proceeds to ask her point-blank if she really doesn’t want her wedding reception at Downton.

Mrs Hughes sighs. It’s not that the house isn’t beautiful and grand and wonderful, but the day “is about Charles Carson and Elsie Hughes,” not Downton, as it is for the other 364 days of the year. She’d like to invite people to the wedding and the reception and not have them feel out of place.

It is at this moment the entire room realizes that servants actually do have lives of their own, and perhaps Mrs. Hughes has friends. Even Carson seems a little surprised at this notion (the last time he had a friend, it ended with his dance-hall past coming back to haunt him).

Cora nods and says she completely understands, and she’s sorry that Mary was being such a bitch. What Cora has failed to notice is that Mary was only being a bitch because she loves Carson dearly. (Remember when Mary came down the stairs on the day of her wedding and said, “Will I do, Carson?”) Mrs Hughes is dismissed, and once she’s gone, Mary does lament about the situation, which further irks Cora. Robert uncomfortably drinks his tea. Gee, he’s knocking back a lot of tea in this episode!

Denker goes to Violet and says she’s pretty sure Spratt’s up to something—Violet is pretty sure she doesn’t give a shit and would prefer it if Denker just made her hot chocolate and went back to whatever hole it is that servants live in. She does admit, however, that Spratt probably has friends and extended family, because they seem to be “married and buried with numbing regulation.”

In London, super-posh Sex and the City Edith runs into Bertie Pelham in a romantic alleyway full of books. She remembers him from Brancaster (one of those shooting trips). He asks about Edith’s being in London, and she almost blabs about Marigold but … manages to cover it up. Bertie’s so starry-eyed that he doesn’t even pick up on it. They agree to have a drink, and he adorably departs with, “And now I’m going to hurry away before you change your mind.”

At the magazine, Edith—perhaps inspired by the spark of Bertie’s attention—fires her asinine editor at last! But … crap. Now she has to get the finished magazine to the printers by 4AM. That gives her basically a night, which would be fine, except she’s supposed to have a date with Bertie! Rats! She whisks off to find him, informing him of her predicament, and he’s very understanding—so much so that he offers to come back to the office with her so that he can, you know, “make coffee,” “bring her sandwiches,” and stare at her all night. Edith and the perfect cinnamon roll take off tout suite. Our heroic editor meets her deadline with the help of Bertie’s unassuming presence. Could it be—? Could Edith have a love interest? We now must all begin to hypothesize about what’s wrong with Bertie Pelham (my money’s on: he hates dogs).

Sgt. Willis, who seems to be assigned to the Crawley beat these days, comes to the Dower House looking for Spratt—the plot thickens! Denker grins wildly into her tea. It appears Spratt’s unfortunate nephew has absconded from prison and is on the lam. Willis wonders if Spratt might know anything about it? Denker simmers.

Spratt does not know a thing about it, no.

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Denker shakes her head when questioned—oh no, she’s not heard a word about it!—Willis leaves and once he’s gone, Denker throws Spratt a look. Of course she knew he was hiding his nephew in the shed, but she values the ability to torture him over justice, so she’ll keep her mouth shut—for now.

Back at Downton, Mrs. Patmore has ordered a new frock for Mrs. Hughes, but apparently she ordered it from Matronly Monstrosities, because it’s not much better than the first one. Anna thinks perhaps it can be fixed, but Mrs. Hughes comes jingling down the hall and Daisy, Anna, and Mrs Patmore make a comedic show of hiding the dress, and we have a vaguely Golden Girls-esque moment.

Anna once again asks Mary for help re: Mrs. Hughes’ ugly wedding dresses. Mary drinks her tea and offers the raiding of Cora’s closet for a coat of some sort to dress it up, since Mrs. Hughes won’t fit into any of Mary’s clothes.

Downstairs, Carson and Mrs Hughes share a sweet moment, which reminds us that they’re getting married for love and not convenience, where they make a plan to adorably avoid one another post-dinner so that they won’t run into each other before the wedding tomorrow.

She’s sorry she’s not put more effort into her dress, and Carson doesn’t seem to worried, saying he’s sure “she’ll look wonderful.” She shrugs, ever practical, and says, “Well, at least I’ll look tidy.” Carson looks like perhaps he would like to tenderly pat Mrs. Hughes on the hand, but he does not.

The Hospital Drama continues when Cora, Dr. Clarkson, Isobel, Violet, and Lord Merton (?) argue for several minutes about this Plot, which is notable mostly because Cora has more lines in this scene than she’s had for the last few series. The topic doesn’t really matter much, because what we’re meant to understand is that VIOLET IS ANGRY and ISOBEL IS ALSO ANGRY and they are SO NOT FRIENDS RIGHT NOW. And Dr. Clarkson is no closer to professing his love for Isobel than he was three series ago, and Lord Merton is precariously close to doing just that. Violet asks Isobel if she drank at lunch. Isobel glares. Cora wears a nice hat.

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When she returns to Downton ANGRY, she pops into the library to tell everyone she’s back and REALLY ANGRY, and although Mary knows that Anna and Mrs. Hughes are upstairs rifling through her wardrobe for a coat, which Mary thought would be totally fine, she makes a mild effort to warn Cora of what she’ll find. So, when she throws her bedroom door open to find SERVANTS WEARING HER SPARKLY CLOTHES she is VERY ANGRY and yells at them. Mrs. Hughes actually transforms into a pile of shame as they all frantically leave the room.

Anna regales this to Mary, who says “leave it to me,” which should make anyone who hears it crap their pants. Don’t ever leave anything to Mary Crawley that you don’t want blood-drenched, but miraculously, she does fix it, calling out Cora for being rude.

Mrs. Hughes has her sullen dinner with Mrs. Patmore in her sitting room on the night before her wedding, feeling quite awful about the whole situation. Cora comes in and apologizes for her behavior, interrupting their soup, but it’s fine. She gives Mrs. Hughes the coat—not just lends, but actually gives it to her, and Mrs. Hughes gasps. It’s probably worth more than she makes in a year. Cora has given it to her primarily because she doesn’t want to be known as The Bitch Who Ruined The Carsons’ Wedding, and that’s as close to actual regret as she’ll get.

A very sweet pre-wedding montage begins: Baxter staying up all night to alter the coat for Mrs. Hughes and, presumably, putting the finishing touches on her kinda-fugly dress; Carson packing his overnight bag and otherwise saying goodbye to his room at Downton; Mrs. Hughes tucked up in her bed grinning sheepishly into her pillow.

The Wedding day arrives, and Anna, Baxter, and Mrs. Patmore come to wake up Mrs Hughes. Immediately, she thinks something must be wrong, and they say simply that they’ve come to dress the bride. Mrs. Hughes beams.

Downstairs, Carson is mumbling wildly as he practices his vows, when Molesley comes in with the boutonnières. Carson hasn’t the slightest idea what they are, and realizing he’s got no groomsmen, he just hands one out to all the footmen (even Thomas).

A rather abrupt jump-cut to mid-wedding shows the housekeeper and the butler reciting their vows (it’s more than just his worldly good he endows to her, amiright?) and exchanging rings.

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Mrs. Patmore sits in the front pew sighing audibly. (I believe the direction for this scene read: CUT TO: MRS. PATMORE, VISIBLY FANGIRLING). A random village child hands Mrs. Hughes a bouquet with white heather, which she carries out into the sun to the sounds of bagpipes so we all remember that she is SCOTTISH. Everyone’s excited, and she and Mr. Carson kiss, and I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING.

Meanwhile, Isobel has used the servant wedding to continue the Hospital Drama (in a house of God!)—we will kindly ignore it here.

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The schoolhouse has been transformed into a perfectly lovely wedding reception, and for once, the totally posh Downtonians are the ones a bit overdressed for the occasion. They drink their punch and smile, and it’s all fine, really. Carson gives his new bride a very heartfelt toast (“I am the happiest and luckiest of men that a woman of such grace and charm should entrust her life’s happiness to my unworthy charge”) which is only upstaged by two adorable wedding crashers: TOM AND SYBBIE!

It took a transatlantic trip and a few miserable months for Tom to realize it, but Downton is his home—for better or worse—and he’s back to stay. Five-ever.

Minor but possibly relevant plot points:

• Robert’s got indigestion—or does he?

• Thomas has an interview with the saddest house in all of England, and he decides that even he doesn’t want to be that emo all the time. So, for the time being, he’s still at Downton.

• Daisy is still after the Drewes’ farm on behalf of her dad-in-law, Mr. Mason, and she even goes so far as to imply this to Cora when they meet in the hallway.

• “You seem unusually disenchanted with life, Mr. Barrow,” sayeth Carson, thereby proving he doesn’t know him at all. When has Thomas Barrow ever been anything but disenchanted?

Abby Norman is an author and journalist in New England. Her work has been featured on Medium, The Huffington Post, Alternet and recommended by Time 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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