Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 4

While Mr. and Mrs. Carson are away on their honeymoon, Thomas is filling in as butler at Downton Abbey. Predictably, the staff are not enthused about this and don’t really seem to be following any of his orders. Poor Thomas. If nothing else, this season so far has made me feel bad for him, a thing I never thought would happen. I think he seems precariously close to either burning down the whole house or poisoning everyone. We shall see, but I don’t think this show will go out Hamlet-style, with most of the characters taken out and a victorious Thomas sipping the good stuff in the library as the police sergeant enters.

But the sergeant is back again, this time for Baxter. She asks the lovely Molesley to stand in the room with her while she is questioned. This time, the police have not come to accuse. The sergeant is there instead to ask her to testify against her old frenemy, Coyle, he who instigated her to steal her employer’s jewels. Coyle has tricked many women into doing his illegal bidding, so the sergeant would like Baxter to testify against him. Baxter hesitates because it would be humiliating. The sergeant asks her to think about it. It would help keep Coyle away from other women whom he might persuade into a life of crime. Molesley also encourages her, but Baxter is unsure.

Outside, Baxter and Thomas have a little heart-to-heart wherein Baxter tells him that she envies him because he does not care what others think. She thinks that she is weak and incapable of standing up the the man who wronged her so long ago. Thomas tells her that she is stronger than she thinks. Goodness, Thomas, why can’t you always be that kind? It was a great moment, showing the viewers that Thomas, despite his harsh exterior, really is fond of Baxter. Eventually, Baxter agrees to testify.

Aunt Rosamund is coming to visit, for two reasons. First, she is going to take Cora’s side against Violet in the hospital fight. Second, she wants to get Edith involved in a college for women who might not otherwise have an opportunity for education. My first thought was that this will somehow benefit Daisy. Edith likes this idea and wants to be involved. Rosamund has arranged for someone from the school to visit to tell them more about it. It turns out that this man is married to Gwen, who was a housemaid at Downton Abbey in season one! Thomas answers the door to them, and Gwen pretends like she does not know him. Anna is very excited to see Gwen, her former roommate, but Gwen seems intent on not letting anyone know who she is. When in the company of the upstairs family, Mary says that she looks familiar, but Gwen denies any previous acquaintance. None of them really recognize her, except for Tom, because as Daisy says, they don’t really look you in the face.

It all comes out in the dining room when Thomas, in annoyance and jealousy at this former-downstairs success story, outs her. Embarrassed, Gwen explains that she used to be a housemaid at Downton Abbey. When the family asks for the story of how she ended up there, having a meal in the upstairs dining room, she explains that Sybil did everything. This show needs a Sybil, and Mary and Edith are poor substitutes. Everyone gets a bit weepy remembering how, in season one, Sybil would mysteriously disappear, and now they learn it was all to help Gwen. Tom particularly is a mixture of happy and sad at the memory of his late wife. I loved this scene, but it made me miss Sybil a lot. None of the characters can even remotely compare to her in likability.

Robert gives Thomas a warning that Carson rules by being kind and making people like him. One does not rule by outing former housemaids in the dining room. Robert is still feeling ill. I keep waiting each week for this to turn into a bigger issue, though I don’t believe that Robert will die. That will create too many issues with little George, and Mary in proxy, taking control of the estate, and at the snail’s pace this season is moving so far, it probably couldn’t be dealt with in detail. So, some sort of health issue is going to bubble over from these anvil-sized hints, but I’m sure it will be disappointingly mild.

Rosamund has come to support Cora, but Violet has called in her own support for the hospital battle. Lady Shackleton is coming and bringing her nephew. Violet tells her that she does not need to know the facts, only that Violet is right. It turns out that Lady Shackleton’s nephew is Henry, the car racing chap from last season’s shooting party. Well, both potential suitors from that party are coming back, first Bertie last week, now Henry. Mary is surprised but pleased to see him. They flirt all evening, and he gives her his card and asks her to call him the next time she is in London.

Emergency calls as Anna is having pains. Mary rushes her off to London to see the doctor, and she is just in time. Anna is still pregnant, but needs to rest. I don’t give Mary credit for doing this from niceness. She is not the new Sybil. Anna has done her so many favors, including literally dragging a dead body from her room, that Mary owes her several times over. Besides, Mary uses this opportunity to call Henry to have dinner again. More flirting. I cannot remember if Mary explained the reason why she is not all that fond of cars. I would think it would be an important point to Mary, given how her first husband died, but if she likes Henry enough, perhaps she would be able to overlook the potential danger.

Back at Downton Abbey, Daisy is very angry that Mr. Mason is not going to be given the Drewes old farm. She resolves to go upstairs to give Cora a piece of her mind. The entire downstairs staff rallies around to try to talk her out of out, but Daisy is so upset that she will not hear reason. Kind Baxter goes with her. What Daisy does not know is that all of the talk of Sybil has softened Cora’s heart. Although it is not the best financial decision, she wants to give Mr. Mason the farm. Tom and Robert agree, and Tom says he will convince Mary. In the hallway, Cora sees Daisy and is confused about why she is there. Daisy is about to start her rampage when Robert comes into the hallway and tells Daisy the good news. Much chastened, Daisy goes back downstairs. Cora has the odd feeling of having dodged something awful, and if only she knew.

Everyone is gathered for a party for the returning Carsons. Anna finally, finally tells Mr. Bates that she is pregnant and that it is going much better this time. She is hopeful, and they are both happy, but I wish she had told him sooner.

This week, for a change, Edith is not running off to London to deal with her editor. That is mostly because she has not hired anyone to replace him yet. So, she fired her editor and then left the rest of the staff behind to sort it out by themselves, to get a new issue of the magazine ready? True leadership, there. She says that she wants to be something like a co-editor (what, all the way from Yorkshire by phone?) and therefore wants to hire a woman, feeling that a woman might be more willing to work with her. If she wants to realistically be a co-editor, she has to move to London, but no one points it out to her. Instead, Mary offers a compliment, which she immediately barbs after Edith walks away.

All of the upstairs folks, particularly Robert, are whining about having to call the newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Carson now. Mary says it is like Jane Eyre asking to be called Mrs. Rochester, and while I appreciate the literary reference, I hate that they’re all dragging their feet about it. Luckily, once they have returned, Mr. Carson says that they would like to remain Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes to their employers. Robert gratefully announces this to the room, making me cringe. What was the big deal about calling her Mrs. Carson now? Thomas tells Carson that he learned a lot while filling in for him, which Carson seems sort of pleased about.

Mr. Carson goes up to see his old room one last time. The Carsons will be moving into a cottage, so the home Carson has known for so many years will be his no more. He takes a look around, closes the door, and takes his nameplate off of the door. Mixed emotions at being married, Carson moves on to his new life with his wife.