With The Carsons on their honeymoon (in “Scarborough” which I suspect is just code for “an opium den in Paris”) Thomas Barrow has ascended the throne of Butlerhood and is reminding the staff of his new, glittery position at every turn.
Remember, Barrow: nothing gold can stay.
As it turns out, when The Carsons return, they will no longer be living at Downton—they’ve got a cottage—though it remains to be seen if they’ll hang out a shingle for Carson’s Domestic Service & Good Time Emporium.
So maybe Thomas will get Carson’s old bedroom.
Upstairs, Branson has returned, and since Mary has taken over as the estate agent in his absence, she tells him to come down to the office so she can school him. I’m not sure on what, exactly; perhaps she supposes his brief sojourn to Boston made him forget about life at Downton—maybe she just wants to assure herself he’s not a Red Sox fan. He does warn her that he’s changed now that he’s seen American Capitalism. Mary humors him, ah, silly Americans!
Sgt. Willis—who ought to be in the main titles by now, given how often he’s been downstairs in the last few seasons—has called yet again, expect PLOT TWIST: He’s after someone who isn’t a Bates—rather, a Baxter.
Remember that time, like two season ago, when Miss Baxter revealed that she’d been imprisoned for theft—something about stealing jewels whilst being ensnared in some blackmail plot with a Very Bad Man? I guess that’s coming back to haunt her. As much as I love Baxter, I was relieved it wasn’t Bates or Anna this time—and so were they, actually making a joke about it in the servant’s hall (“Makes for a nice change,” peeps Anna).
Meanwhile, this whole HOSPITAL BRAWL continues, and now the Dowager is calling for reinforcements, assembling her SQUAD, which includes Lady Shackleton and possibly Aunt Rosamund—though, it’s also likely that Roz has decided to show up as a spectator.
Honestly, I don’t even blame her—it’s been six seasons, and we still don’t know what happened to her dead husband. She lives all alone in London and has literally nothing to do but meddle in the lives of her nieces. Give this Vodka Aunt a season pass.
RECURRING GUEST STAR SGT. WILLIS arrives at Downton to question Baxter, and she asks that her BAE Molesley be present while she’s interrogated. Now that Carson/Hughes is canon, it would seem that Baxley is the new downstairs ship on which we might be tempted to board. Maybe the HMS Baxley can bring some provisions to those of us on the HMS-Thomas-With-Literally-Anyone-So-Long-As-He’s-Marginally-Happy.
As it turns out, the man who got Baxter into trouble at her old job is at it again—a serial ass-pirate, if you will. Sgt. Willis wants her to testify against him as a character witness.
Did we get dropped into a Law and Order AU when I wasn’t looking?
Baxter hesitates. Molesley bumbles. Sgt. Willis departs.
Molesley then tells Baxter he thinks she ought to testify because “evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” Baxter kind of rolls her eyes and leaves—feeling like maybe Molesley’s been watching too much Mr. Robot.
Meanwhile, Mary’s moved on from the farm-nonsense to focus instead on the germination of Anna’s fetus, which remains shrouded in secrecy and the perpetual black attire of a Lady’s Maid until she’s certain another miscarriage will be avoided.
As ever, Mary enjoys being in on the secret, and when Mr. Bates pops into her bedroom to start taking suitcases down to the car, she nearly blows Anna’s cover when she says that the cases are too heavy for Anna to carry. But Mr. Bates, with his cane, can surely manage four of them at once.
At the Dower House, Violet is having tea with Lady Shackleton, who she has brought in to make Isobel jealous—I mean, as an ally in the hospital war. Lady Shackleton asks to bring her nephew to dinner—one Henry Talbot, who you may remember from last season as being a handsome chap who wooed Mary. No, not that one—the other one.
Meddling Aunt Roz has arrived to shake shit up, though not without first paying more attention to Edith on their car ride from the train station to Downton than anyone else has in six seasons. She mentions that she’d like to suggest Edith join her as a trustee for a women’s college, and that a fellow by the name of Harding, who also serves, lives nearby, and she’d love to invite him to Downton. Edith seems chuffed to be thought of as clever. Rosamund, sadly, is not wearing a fantastic hat.
Daisy is in the kitchens bashing the living hell out of some potatoes, because she’s filled with pent up rage at the news that Yew Tree Farm is not going to fall to the capable hands of her father-in-law, Mr. Mason. The Crawleys would prefer to have Downton maintain the land—and Daisy would prefer that Cora took a very long walk off a very short pier.
Henry Talbot arrives, and Mary exclaims, “Golly!” which is 1920s speak for, “asdfghjkl;!”
He explains that he’s a race car driver, which would be kind of cool and exciting to a woman like Mary IF HER BELOVED HUSBAND AND THE FATHER OF HER CHILD HAD NOT DIED IN A CAR ACCIDENT.
On the other end of the room, Robert warns Violet that she’d better not plan to rope poor Lady Shackleton into the hospital debate over dinner. Violet is insulted that her son thinks her such a schemer—in reality, she’s probably just surprised he’s joined everyone for drinks when everyone knows he got a new puppy and would much rather be paying attention to it than his human family.
Upstairs dinner becomes the shitshow we all knew it would be, though Mary and Henry seem to hit it off, despite her incredulousness at his racing career. The arguing between Isobel and Violet reaches rather a crescendo, and Edith points out that Isobel is entitled to put up an argument—to which Violet snaps, “Yes, but she’s not entitled to win it.”
Before everyone disperses for the night, Henry asks Mary if it would be terribly common of him to give her his card, so that they might get together next him he’s in London. (Of course she thinks him common. He drives cars for a living, making him a very speedy chauffeur, right?) but she takes it with a rather pleasant smirk and sashays away.
Robert grimaces, informing Cora that it seems he can’t drink port anymore. Either that or, like the rest of us, this whole hospital plotline is giving him a cramp.
Poor Anna, meanwhile, is having cramps of her own—but will she confide in anyone? Could she be losing this baby, too? For the love of God and all that is holy, Fellowes, just let these poor people have ONE THING.
Thomas does what I found myself wanting to do at this point in the episode and steps out into the velvety night to smoke a cigarette. Baxter is still trying to decide if she ought to testify and implies that she envies Thomas, since he doesn’t care what people think of him. Which, Thomas points out, is quite to the contrary—he cares a lot, we just can’t see his facial expressions through the plumes of smoke.
The next day, Aunt Rosamund’s trustee pal, Mr. Harding, arrives at Downton for luncheon with his wife, who looks strangely familiar. When Thomas opens the door, he realizes at once that it’s Gwen Dawson, the young housemaid from previous seasons who hid a typewriter away in her room so that she could work toward becoming a secretary. Lady Sybil (may she rest in peace) had gone so far as to help her get a job.
Gwen, it seems, has married up, and in fact, the school that Aunt Rosamund had discussed with Edith was much Gwen’s idea—she mentions that if only she’d had more of an education, she might have done more with her life. Isobel echoes this sentiment immediately and says that she, too, felt the limitations of her education: She’s a nurse, but why couldn’t she have become a doctor? Mary, meanwhile, isn’t terribly ruffled—no women had much of an education, did they? Most of them taught only “French, prejudice, and dance steps.”
Thomas is straight-up pissed. He sets out to ruin Gwen her over their meal, outing her to the family as a former servant whose name they don’t remember—but it backfires majestically.
Gwen gently explains how it had been Lady Sybil who had helped her acquire the typewriter for her courses and, in the end, procured her the job that lead her away into a new, successful life. The two girls had stayed in touch up until Sybil’s death, but Gwen says—“I’ll never forget her; her kindness changed my life.” Invoking the name of the youngest Crawley daughter was a special treat for those of us who were REKT when she died a few seasons ago.
Love you long time, Sybil.
And you go, Gwen Harding!
That night, Anna is dressing Mary for bed, and the disconcerting pains return. The two clamber into the car and steal away in the dead of night to see that fancy-schmancy doctor, and we are reminded if only for a moment that when it counts, Mary comes through for her BAEs.
Downstairs, Daisy has had it with the Crawleys—specifically Cora—and decides to confront them on Mr. Mason’s behalf, even if it means losing her job. What she doesn’t know is that upstairs, Cora has been lobbying for Mr. Mason to have Yew Tree Farm, and she’s convinced everyone she’s right. So, when Daisy comes up to lay into Cora, the catfight is intercepted by Robert announcing that Mr. Mason’s got the farm if he wants it. Daisy slinks away, and Baxter looks like she wants to strangle the girl but thinks better of it since, you know, she’s already been imprisoned once.
Cora and Robert head up to bed, but not before Robert can make yet another show of his STOMACH PAIN which PROBABLY IS FORESHADOWING since it’s getting so much screen time, amiright?
Anna has not lost the baby, and though she’ll need a few days rest, the physician explains to Mary that he’s “cautiously optimistic” the pregnancy will continue on just fine. Phew.
Relieved, Mary takes the opportunity to see Henry Talbot, since she’s in London—although she feels she must apologize to him for looking so shabby. “I’ve stolen this from my Aunt,” she says of her frock. As if Mary Crawley couldn’t werk a potato sack if necessary.
Back at Downton, Robert implies that if Thomas wants to succeed when he’s—erm—probably eventually let go from Downton and forced to look for work elsewhere, it would behoove him to not be such a dickhead. Thomas winces—he’s actually quite wounded by this, and for the first time in a long time, we seem him visibly deflate.
Everyone squeezes into the servants’ hall to celebrate the homecoming of the butler and the housekeeper. Anna finally tells Mr. Bates about BabyBates, or rather, he guesses, and she confirms.
Mr. and Mrs. Carson saunter in looking like they saw absolutely none of the Scarborough seaside and a great deal of—erm—other things. The googly eyed newlyweds manage to explain to the family that they’ve decided they’ll still go by their normal titles so long as they remain at Downton, Carson and Mrs. Hughes—because having two Carsons is one too many for the upstairs folk to remember.
Violet realizes it’s been 20 years since she’s last been in the kitchens, and Isobel quips, “Have you got your passport?” I’m not saying I love that they’re fighting, but I love that they are fighting because exchanges like this happen.
It wouldn’t be a Downton party without a little class-clashing, though: Aunt Roz snickers at the whole idea of Mrs. Carson, “It’s like Jane Eyre asking to be called Mrs. Rochester.”
Minor but possibly relevant plot points:
Thomas was butler for like a sneeze, and aside from him being called out by Robert for being a jerkwad, nothing terrible happened. He could totally be butler if he manages not to piss anyone off, right? Carson won’t live forever, unless he plans to butler from beyond the grave.
Henry Talbot is dishy, but Mary’s not 100% sold. Will he be able to woo her?
If Daisy’s going to hang out on the farm with Mr. Mason, does that mean she’ll leave Downton? What will Mrs. Patmore do without her unbiological-daughter-person to boss around?
IS ROBERT DYING OR WHAT?! “Could that pain BE any more ornate?”
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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