Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 9 (Finale)

Well, this is it. The very last episode, but there have been rumors of a possible movie, so who knows when or if we’ll see these characters again. In the finale, all of the loose ends are tied up, perhaps a bit too neatly.

Anyway, we begin with a bunch of outside scenes. The upstairs folks have decided to take advantage of the good weather and are having meals and drinks outside. Edith has taken the opportunity to make changes in her life. She is going to put Marigold into a school in London and devote the majority of her time to living there. Well, honestly, this could have happened much earlier in the season, but fine, if that is what she is doing, good for her. It really is the best place for her. She stops by Violet’s house to have a chat with Miss Cassandra Jones herself, AKA Granny’s butler Spratt, with the good news that they are thinking of giving him a full page column. Always wanting to cause trouble, Denker listens at the door.

The rest of the family continues to discuss Edith and Bertie. They mostly equate happiness for Edith with rank and marriage, but couldn’t Edith be happy living alone in London with her work at the newspaper and Marigold? Robert and Mary go to visit Violet, who remarks that she was beginning to forget what they looked like. Are we supposed to forget that Violet didn’t want to see them because of what happened during the hospital fight? That she actually fled the country to avoid them? Cora couldn’t come because she is busy with hospital work, and Violet seems to no longer really care about it. She has been ill, but believe me when I say that that is a big red herring. She says something that gets Mary’s imagination working, apparently, with good deeds for Edith.

Edith drives down to London with Henry. Henry is blandly nice, and he and Edith seem chummy, so I suppose that’s progress in Mary’s relationship with Edith. Henry has decided that he no longer wants to competitively race cars. Edith says that that will make Mary happy, which it will, but it leaves Henry with very little to do. He is trying to figure out the next phase of his life just as Edith has found hers. It is strange because Edith and Henry seem to have more chemistry than I have seen between Mary and Henry. Henry was not perfect for Mary (I would have preferred Charles Blake), but time was running out, and, if nothing else, the writer seems intent on giving each and every person a romantic match (except for Thomas).

Aunt Rosamund has invited Edith to dine at the Ritz. Edith feels that this is an unusual sort of treat, and I’m surprised that she didn’t work out why at the Ritz before she got to the table. There, Rosamund abandons her to a dinner with Bertie! Well, well, well, look who has come crawling back. As I said during the last recap, I understood Bertie’s reasons, but he was wrong. What he should have done was tell Edith he needed some time to think about it and would catch up with her when he got back to London, but instead he decided that the truth about Marigold disqualified Edith to be a marchioness. Added to that, Edith has finally got things together. She has a plan for the future. She will live in London with Marigold. She will be more involved with the paper. Instead, Bertie is offering her a chance to hole herself up in the country with his dour mother.

Edith questions the need for secrecy, and Bertie says that he suspected she wouldn’t come if she knew he would be there. This is true. So, he had issues with her dishonesty last episode, and is trying to woo her back using dishonest methods? He mentions that Mary called and set the whole thing up, but says that he would have called Edith anyway, so I am not sure what Mary’s role is in this? Is it just to give her something nice to do when it wasn’t really necessary? Edith is obviously not ready to talk about this yet, especially not in a public place, but she doesn’t get up and leave. Bertie, in tears, tells her that he made a mistake and misses her. You can just see Edith’s heart melting here, but I maintain that, in the long run, Edith would be better off getting up from the table and continuing with her own life plans.

Personally, I felt that they needed more time. Everything in this episode felt a bit rushed. I am trying to imagine the sort of life they will lead together, and I would have cheered this relationship on last episode, but I feel like Bertie revealed something about himself in his reaction to Edith’s secret last episode. He asks her to marry him. We don’t see a definite response, but we find out that Edith called home to Downton Abbey that night to give her father the good news. They want to move forward as soon as possible, so Cora and Robert are going to Brancaster Castle to meet Bertie’s mother and attend a dinner where the engagement will officially be announced.

A whole series of red flags against Bertie pop up when he says that he doesn’t want to tell his mother the truth about Marigold. The fact that he thinks dishonesty is the best way to deal with his mother is very confusing to me after he spent so much time on his moral high horse when breaking up with Edith. Edith agrees to this secrecy at first. Then, during their first meeting, his mother goes on and on about how Bertie will have to be the moral example for the entire area now that he is marquess. Long story short, this woman is awful. She claims that she will mostly leave Bertie and Edith alone after they are married, but I doubt that. As Robert remarks after she retires for bed, “Golly!” Edith decides that she has to tell his mother, and so she does. She reacts just about as well as could be expected, and Bertie is strong in the face of her opposition.

During the dinner, Bertie is about to announce the engagement when his mother interrupts. Robert whispers to her that if she ruins this and doesn’t announce it herself, she will lose Bertie forever. And so she announces it and does a complete volte-face by saying later that Edith showed great bravery. The wedding is planned for the Christmas-New Years week, so the episode fast forwards to that moment. It seems for a moment that someone might object (Bertie’s mother? Michael Gregson?), but all goes well. Edith and Bertie depart for their honeymoon.

This recap has gotten out of hand, so here are some other quick plot points:

  • Baby Bates (a boy) is born in Mary’s room during Edith’s wedding reception.
  • Thomas leaves for a new job. He resolves to be kinder and to make friends there, but he finds it very lonely as there aren’t many people downstairs at the new house. On a related note, Carson develops a shake in his hands, which impacts his ability to work. They discuss hiring a new butler, and I have no idea why no one thinks of Thomas during the discussion? Anyway, Thomas visits during Edith’s wedding and takes over for Carson serving drinks. They decide that Thomas will serve out his notice at his old job and then return as the new butler. Carson will act as a sort of emeritus butler and consultant during large events.
  • Molesley also leaves for a new job! One of the teachers at the school leaves, giving Molesley a chance to move into his cottage and take over responsibilities for his students. He comes back to Downton to help during big occasions, such as Edith’s wedding.
  • Henry and Tom become car salesmen! Mary is actually happy for them, and also she is pregnant, but she doesn’t want to steal the limelight from Edith, so she tells no one else.
  • Denker tells Violet that Spratt writes for Edith’s paper. Violet, who refuses to act in a predictable way, is merely amused and tells Spratt that she will have to ask for his advice about fashion and such.
  • Rose and her husband come back to visit, but without their baby daughter. She helps to convince Robert not to be jealous of the time Cora spends on the work at the hospital, and to instead be proud of it. I really missed Rose this season; the show needed more optimism.
  • A list of characters randomly paired off:
    • Daisy and Andy. When she at first resists his advances, he ponders whether she likes men (the only possible explanation, apparently? It couldn’t possibly be that she doesn’t like him that way). Then, when he stops trying, he gets his own Darcy-wet-shirt scene, bringing Daisy around. Everyone tells her that she could do worse, and I don’t think that’s a very good reason to enter a relationship with someone.
    • Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason
    • Baxter and Molesley
    • Tom and the editor at Edith’s newspaper (whose name I still don’t know)
    • Isobel and Lord Merton (who was dying, until it was determined that he was not)
    • Denker and Spratt** (**not really, but it certainly felt it was going that way with all of the shipping going on in this finale)

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 8

Well, finally. I have only been waiting since season 1, episode 1 for Mary to get the verbal smackdown she deserves. Here we have it, even if the ending is not entirely satisfying.

Bertie’s relative the marquess has died in Tangiers, and so he is going to see what can he can do to tie up loose ends there. Edith invites him to Downton Abbey on the way to Tangiers. It turns out that Bertie was not just the agent of his relative’s estate; he was the heir. Bertie will be a marquess! His wife would be a marchioness! Mary simply cannot believe it. She thinks that he must be lying. Everyone else laughs hysterically because, if Edith marries Bertie, then she will outrank Mary. Sourface Mary is, of course, extremely miffed by this. Added to it all, Henry shows up unannounced, and her family politely invites him to stay. Mary feels that she ought to have been consulted first, but it was only common politeness to allow him to stay for one day.

Things do not go well for Henry. He wants to know why, when Mary obviously loves him, she will not agree to marry him. She interprets his argument as him saying that she is a gold-digger. She says that she wants him to leave, and so he does, not waiting to see her the next day.

Edith has still not told Bertie the truth about Marigold. Of course I kept yelling at the TV for her to tell him, but it is entirely consistent with her character that she hesitates. She didn’t even tell her parents about Marigold; her father found out by accident and had to confront her about it. I think Edith is so used to the idea that no one will love her for who she is that she feels compelled to hide it. Everyone of course feels that Edith should tell Bertie about Marigold. Mary walks in on her parents and Aunt Rosamund having a conversation about it, and they deflect when she enters, still believing that Mary has no idea.

Bertie makes no qualms about the reason for his visit. He is merely there to get Edith to promise to be his wife. He secures the promise at night in the hallway. Edith is still hesitant. She does not tell him about Marigold, but apparently he has convinced her to marry him.

The next morning, Bertie wants to announce the engagement at the breakfast table. He waits for Mary for some reason that is beyond my and Edith’s comprehension.Tom offers his congratulations. And Mary? Well, she is being Mary. Instead of being happy for her sister, she tells Bertie how brave he is. Tom tries to get her to stop, but Mary goes on and tells him that not everyone would be willing to marry Edith with her past. Bertie asks what she means, and Edith tearfully tells him that Marigold is her daughter. Silent for a few beats, Bertie excuses himself from the table and begins packing to leave.

Outside, he and Edith say goodbye. Bertie says that it is not just about Marigold being Edith’s daughter, which I think is true, but it is at least partially about that. Bertie made it clear that his mother is harsh, a traditionalist, and he is very close to her. By extension, Bertie cares at least a little about the potential scandal of marrying a woman who had a child outside of marriage. He goes on to say that he could not marry someone he can’t trust completely and who doesn’t trust him. Sigh. I understand the reasoning, but I think he is wrong. Edith says how sorry she is, and he leaves.

Finally, after six seasons, Mary gets put in her place. Tom confronts her first. He tells her that when she’s unhappy, no one else can be happy. Like all bullies, she is a coward. She is a coward about Henry, and a coward who won’t let her own sister be happy. Mary tries to save face and says that she thought Bertie knew, which is a complete and horrible lie since we saw her walk in on the conversation between her parents and aunt saying that Edith should tell him. Tom completely and utterly takes her down a few notches. It was truly wonderful to see.

And so Mary is shamed by Tom into apologizing to Edith. She finds Edith packing to go to London. I don’t know what Mary is hoping to accomplish here. I certainly don’t think she is sorry, not at all. Edith is in no mood to humor Mary. Edith gives her the most epic, deserved verbal smackdown. After six seasons of watching Mary prance around like she is a princess and Edith is some lowly creature, it was very satisfying to see Edith finally grow a backbone and give Mary a what for.

Robert and Cora are both upset by what Mary did, and they wonder how she found out. Robert comments that Mary is smart. Is she? She certainly didn’t find out using her vast mental powers. She found out by eavesdropping. She would never have put it all together if she had not heard her mother and Violet talking about it.

In London, Edith meets with her editor (whose name I still cannot remember, but she is a lovely character). The new advice columnist, Miss Cassandra Jones, is coming. She wants a raise, and the column is very popular. Edith wonders if, since Miss Cassandra Jones likes the secrecy, she will send someone in her place to impersonate her. The editor and Edith agree that, if they think the person is the real Miss Jones, they’ll say bananas. It turns out that their visitor is Spratt, granny Violet’s butler! The editor and Edith both say bananas and burst out laughing.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast has been labeled a house of ill-repute. It turns out her first two guests were adulterers, and the husband of the adulterer is suing his wife. Mrs. Patmore could be called on to testify if the case goes to trial. Understandably, Mrs. Patmore is very upset as booking after booking is cancelled. Everyone else in the house finds it hilarious, which is it, if you know Mrs. Patmore. The idea of her running a house of ill-repute is very funny. However, what is not so funny is the idea of her investment in a bed and breakfast being worthless. This is her retirement income we’re talking about. The upstairs folks are very amused, yet sympathetic, and decide to show solidarity by having tea at Mrs. Patmore’s. She is grateful for their support, and it seems that their visit helps her to escape scandal.

Mr. Molesley starts teaching, and the children are just as uncooperative as you might expect. He begins to doubt that he should be a teacher at all. Baxter suggests that he tell them all about his past instead of hiding it as something shameful. When he tells the children that he is in service in addition to teaching, a number of them say that their parents are as well. Molesley tells them that he wants to give them the head start that he never had. Education could open doors for them. At that, they give him their full attention. I adore Molesley, and I am glad that he is getting the sort of good ending that he deserves. Now just to get him and Baxter together.

Baxter sees Thomas behaving strangely. He has been depressed for a while, and a comment he made to Molesley makes Baxter feel dread for what he might do to himself. She grabs Andy and rushes up to the bathroom. When they knock on the door and don’t receive a response, Andy breaks down the door. Thomas has cut his wrists. Luckily, Baxter found him before he was too far gone. They rush to get the doctor, and Thomas will recover. When the news reaches the upstairs folks, Mary asks her father if he now feels bad for trying to get rid of Thomas to save money. Robert is rightfully appalled by this comment. Mary is just being awful this episode, which is par for the course for her.

In a nice moment, Mary brings George up to visit Thomas. George gives him an orange and says that he hopes Thomas gets better soon. Thomas observes that he seems to ruin his relationships with everyone and brings about his own unhappiness. Mary can, of course, relate to this very much. Before she leaves, Mary offers him wishes that he will be happy, and he says that, if it were not an impertinence, he would return the sentiment.

Tom, for reasons I do not understand, has called back Violet from her vacation. Apparently, he thinks that Mary needs to be talked to and comforted or something. Really, doesn’t Edith need it more? Anyway, Mary tearfully tells her grandmother that she can’t be an automobile widow twice over. She just can’t do it again. Violet comforts her and tells her that, while rank and money matter, love matters more. She loves Henry, and she should be with him. Mary is surprised to hear Violet tell her this, and she realizes that her grandmother is right.

Mary whistles, and Henry comes running. I was hoping that Mary would be disappointed and that he wouldn’t come back. Then, in London, Bertie would realize he was wrong and go back to Edith. However, that is not to be. Instead, Henry shows up and wants to hear Mary say she loves him. She does so in her own cold fashion. He then reveals that he optimistically got a special license to be married, with the wedding on Saturday. It is hard for me to feel happy for Mary here. She gets her happy ending when she was so awful the entire episode and really the entire series.

Anyway, the wedding day arrives. Edith shows up! No one was sure she would, and even Edith was not sure before she got on the train. She and Mary have a private word. It is clear that Edith does not forgive her, but she knows that someday Mary will be the only one who remembers Sybil and Matthew and Carson and all of their family, and so she has decided to be the better person in favor of holding onto that bond. Mary asks if Matthew would hate her for getting married again, but Edith kindly assures her that Matthew would want her to be happy. I think he would want Edith to be happy too, because that is the sort of person Matthew was. If he was disappointed in anything, he probably would be massively disappointed in the way Mary has continued to treat Edith.

Mary and Henry are married. Tom is the best man and observes that he was the best man at both of Mary’s weddings. Mary apparently has no maid of honor, which is not a surprise at all. Edith watches the children and seems resolved to carry on despite what happened with Bertie. We have one more episode for this to resolve itself for the better.

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 7

This was quite a good episode with plenty of action, definitely the most enjoyable so far this season. I cannot quite see how everything will wrap up neatly before the finale, but on with the recap.

First, let’s get the Lady Mary storyline out of the way. She is still tactfully pursuing Henry. He is also pursuing her by asking her entire family to watch him race. Mary does not mind him doing so, but she is apprehensive about the car race. Robert and Cora talk about whether Henry is really a good match for Mary. The consensus seems to be that he is not an obvious choice for her, that he is kind of her opposite. I think that she seems to enjoy running the estate herself, so that type of man, one who wouldn’t want to take control away from her and wouldn’t think he knows how to run a grand estate, might be best for her. Anyway, when has Lady Mary ever gone for the suitable and obvious choice? When Evelyn Napier visited, she spent the entire time flirting with Mr. Pamuk. When Tony Gillingham was around (who, like Evelyn Napier, would have been very attractive on paper), she was more attracted to Charles Blake. Speaking of, I wonder what happened to Charles Blake? Is he the only man in England who met Lady Mary and failed to be pulled in by her charms? As I remember, Mary was quite keen on him at one point. Perhaps the actor could not come back this season? Since there are not many episodes left, unless things progress at an astonishing rate with a new suitor, Mary will end up with Henry or she will end up alone.

Lady Edith invites Bertie and her new editor (whose name escapes me) to watch the car race. The new editor and Tom have a nice chat. When the race starts, Mary can barely watch. There is a very big setup here, which foreshadows disaster, and it comes when there is a crash. Henry is involved, and Mary assumes the worst as she runs to the scene. Although Henry is unhurt, his best friend died. Later, Henry blames himself for constantly pushing his friend, but a very emotional Mary tells him that they both pushed each other and that it was not his fault. The family, including the editor and Bertie, go back to Aunt Rosamund’s house for a very subdued dinner. After the family disperses to various locations, Henry calls on the phone for Mary. Because of the accident, Henry realizes he wants a more serious relationship with Mary. However, the accident has had the opposite effect on Mary. She decides that she cannot go through that again and breaks up with him. Tom overhears and tries to convince Mary that she is wrong, but Lady Mary is never wrong and so she storms off to bed.

Meanwhile, Bertie and Edith are getting cozy together after dinner. She has her shoes off and feet up on the sofa while Bertie has his arm around her. Edith remarks that she feels so comfortable and how lovely it all is. Bertie tells her how mad he is about her, and Edith remarks that she never thought she was the sort of woman men would be mad about. Bertie takes that moment to propose! Edith’s first question is whether he would be willing to take in her ward (*ahem* really, Edith?). He seems surprised by the question, but willing to take her in, though he wants children of his own. Is Edith really not going to tell him the truth about Marigold? That was the opportune moment. Edith missed it. She says that she needs a bit of time to think about her answer because she was so surprised by the proposal.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Daisy and Molesley are going to be taking their exams. During a picnic lunch, it comes out that Andy can’t read, and the schoolmaster offers to teach him instead of Thomas. This gives Thomas one less kind deed, which he seems sad about. The schoolmaster later arrives with the results for Molesley, and he wants to offer him a job teaching at the school! He says that Molesley knows more than some fellows who went to Oxford and Cambridge. Molesley reflects that he was never going to be a butler or a valet. Besides, there aren’t many jobs left of that sort (as Thomas well knows), so he feels extremely lucky. Between this and Mrs. Patmore’s new bed and breakfast, it seems like the downstairs folks are getting a way out before the end.

Thomas continues to mope around, constantly being threatened by Carson telling him he needs to find other work. The funny thing is that Thomas has become extremely fond of everyone he works with, but he has not been shown much affection in his life, so he doesn’t quite know how to show it in return. He doesn’t like being an outsider, and he is trying, but not many people are willing to give him another chance. I do hope he gets the chance to redeem himself before the end of the series.

Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes have devised a method for making Mr. Carson more grateful for the work his wife does. Mrs. Hughes pretends to have hurt her wrist. As a result, Carson has to cook dinner and clean up the dishes after. The meal is a bit of a disaster for him, and Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes laugh about it later. I enjoyed this, too, even if it does seem like a passive aggressive way of enlightening Carson.

Finally, Violet visits Lord Merton’s soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Apparently, the woman wants Isobel to marry Lord Merton so that she can be a caretaker for him. She doesn’t want want to worry about caring for him as he gets older and his health deteriorates. I honestly did not know what to make of this particular plot twist, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Violet is still upset about the hospital mess, so she is going to France to calm herself so she doesn’t say something she’ll regret. She has a parting gift. Her butler, Spratt, has arrived with whatever it is, but he seems reluctant to bring it up to the drawing room. The whole family goes downstairs to find out what it is. A puppy! Lord Grantham is very pleased. He names the puppy Tio, going along with the Egyptian theme of naming his dogs. It was such a nice ending to a very good episode.

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 6

Mary and Tom have decided to open Downton Abbey to visitors in order to raise money for charity. It is a wonderful idea, but receives mixed responses. A still-recovering Robert thinks that it’s a bad idea. Would anyone even show up? Violet cannot understand why anyone would pay money to see a dining room or a table or chairs. Isobel reminds Violet that even Elizabeth Bennet wanted to see Pemberley. Violet says that it didn’t work out so well for her, but she is forgetting that that visit to Pemberley is the whole reason Mr. Darcy and Lizzy got together in the end.

The hospital plot is wrapping up in a confusing way. The people from York have decided to replace Violet with Cora? I’m all for Cora getting more to do, but I wonder why, if they are really set on reforming the hospital system in the Downton Abbey area, they would replace one titled person who knows absolutely nothing about running a hospital with another. In any case, it is all done in secret, and Violet will not be happy when she finds out.

Meanwhile, Edith has invited Bertie to stay at Downton on his journey from London back to the estate where he is the agent. Mary has her own eye-rolls about this, and she keeps asking pointed questions about Marigold. She suspects that she might be the only one who did not know the truth about Marigold, and she is miffed about it, so she is going to keep asking until someone tells. The longer it goes on, the more angry she is going to be, and the worse the consequences for Edith.

Anna is having pains, so Mary decides to bring her back to London to see the specialist doctor. And, since she is Lady Mary, she is going to use the visit to London for her own benefit. She has herself invited to a dinner Henry is attending and brings Tom along. Its nice that Tom is getting out, but I do wish he had an interesting subplot of his own. After dinner, Henry is going to walk Mary home. She tells him about Matthew and the car accident, but Henry already knows. They get caught in the rain, and, while they take shelter, Henry asks her to give cars another chance. They kiss, and it is kind of obvious that Mary is besotted with him despite the fact that he is not quite up to her standards. He is not wealthy or titled. He races cars. The fact that she is quietly pursuing him anyway just shows how much she is in love.

The visit to London turned out well for all because Anna is just having normal pregnancy pains. Even though the doctor said she was fine, I hope it isn’t a sign of something bad to come for her. Anna and Bates always have way too much drama surrounding them.

Later, Bertie arrives. Edith could not get the car started, so she meets him on the road to Downton. After they kiss, Edith remarks how natural and nice it feels. They are rather lovely together, but she still hasn’t told him the truth about Marigold. Something is bound to tear them apart because she is Edith, and Edith is never allowed to be happy for very long.

While at dinner, the family explains to Bertie their plan to open the house to visitors to raise money for the hospital. I use the word “plan” loosely because it seems to consist of taking money at the door and allowing everyone in. Mary and Tom have formed the idea without actually figuring out the logistics or getting advice from other people who have opened their houses to the public. Bertie is flabbergasted at this lack of organization because he is an actual competent agent. He helps them get a real plan together involving tour guides, a limited number of people at a time, and positioning servants in rooms to make sure no one steals anything.

It turns out that the family does not know a great deal about the house, a fact played for laughs. Someone points out the shields over the fireplace, and Cora says that she never noticed them before. However, during the open house, Violet storms in. She just found out about how she is being ousted at the hospital and that Cora will take her place. She has a right to be angry; it was all done by subterfuge. It would have been better to give Violet some sort of role but to make Cora more involved. Regardless, Violet storms off. When all of the visitors have left, Tom says that they made a lot of money for the hospital and suggests doing regular open houses to raise money for themselves.

Downstairs, Carson continues to be a demanding husband. He finds fault with the cooking and the way the bed is made and with Mrs. Hughes’s housekeeping. Robert can no longer drink alcohol because of his health, and Carson has decided that it would be disloyal for him to continue drinking. He says something ridiculous about standing by the family with the gesture. That seems a bit… excessive? I think Mrs. Hughes would like to box his ears, but she’s too polite to do so. Only a few more episodes left to make this marriage happy, but I don’t see any way to make Carson less of a curmudgeon before the finale.

Daisy is trying to keep Mrs. Patmore away from Mr. Mason, which is selfish and making her look infinitely immature. Out of all of the downstairs characters, Daisy has grown the least since the beginning of the show despite all of her book learning. She is going to sit her exams soon, and the schoolmaster has also devised an exam for Molesley to take! Molesley isn’t a good footman, but he is a good tutor and so invested in Daisy’s success. The schoolmaster makes a vague reference to giving Molesley something to do if he can pass the exam.

I shall end with Thomas. Poor Thomas just can’t get past his reputation as a villain. Only Lady Mary seems ready to jump to his defense because of how kind he is to the children. Robert has another chat with Carson about cutting staff, and that means Thomas. Carson spots Andy coming out of Thomas’s room. The viewer knows that Thomas is doing a good thing, teaching Andy how to read, but Carson raises his eyebrows. Mrs. Patmore overhears Andy and Thomas talking about meeting later. I am disappointed in Mrs. Patmore here because we have seen this season that she can have uncomfortable talks. She sorted out the Carson and Hughes pre-marriage trouble. Why would she automatically jump to a sordid rendez-vous? Surely, if something like that were happening, they would be more circumspect about it. Anyway, instead of having a chat with Thomas or with Andy, Mrs. Patmore tells Mr. Carson. Mr. Carson then accuses Thomas of taking advantage of a young and impressionable Andy. Thomas rightly protests against this treatment. Have all of his years of service meant nothing? Does Mr. Carson really think that poorly of him? But Carson has been awful this season and is not willing to give Thomas any credit.

The episode closes with Thomas sitting up at night, sobbing. Oh, dear.

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 5

As Lady Mary would say, golly! This week, there was plenty of blood and gore and drama. The health crisis finally bubbled over, but we shall get to that soon.

While Tom is still trying to figure out his new role upon returning to Downton Abbey, Mr. Mason is preparing to move into the Drewes’ farm. Mary is a bit miffed that she wasn’t consulted before the decision was made, but she thinks he is a good man and anyway he knows a lot about pigs. Her only concern is that he physically may not be up to all of the tasks required of a farmer, so she and Tom are going to visit to ask him. This confused me because, if he isn’t strong enough, what will happen? They’ve already offered him the farm. But this gives Andy, who, along with Daisy and Mrs. Patmore, is helping Mr. Mason move in, a chance to say he has always longed to learn more about pig farming and will help with the more physical tasks. Well, of course. Mr. Mason gives Andy some books to learn more about it, so it seems Andy the footman will also be a pig farming apprentice. Andy also seems a bit sweet on Daisy, which heaven help him. Anyone who ends up with Daisy is going to need a few prayers and then some. Daisy, after their visit to Mr. Mason, wants Mrs. Patmore to be a bit less interested in her father-in-law. So, there are a lot of convoluted romantic subplots going on downstairs.

Just a few episodes ago, Mr. Carson was assuring Mrs. Hughes, through intermediary Mrs. Patmore, of the extent of his love for her. However, that love does not seem to extend to her cooking. Mrs. Patmore packs some food for them to enjoy at their cottage, but Mr. Carson finds much to criticize in the way it is prepared. Before the end of the episode, he rudely asks Mrs. Patmore to give his wife some cooking tips, but perhaps Mr. Carson should learn to cook instead.

Mary’s flirtation with car racing Henry continues. She and Tom go to watch Henry race cars, which still makes Mary nervous. Afterwards, they all go to a pub to celebrate Henry’s win. Mary mentions something about never having been in a pub, how Matthew wasn’t all that into that sort of thing, so does Henry know all about what happened to Matthew? It wasn’t entirely clear to me. Henry makes an excuse to see Mary another time, and Tom calls them both out on their evasive techniques. If you like each other, he seems to be saying, just say so and make plans to see each other again. Mary is the queen of playing coy, though, so I expect this to continue until the last episode.

In London, Edith interviews a new woman editor, who seems lovely and is Edith’s age and whom Edith decides to hire. She also sees Bertie again, inviting him to see her apartment before dinner. He calls this racy, but Edith is a woman of the world and downplays it. That evening, she talks about Michael Gregson, how the apartment was his, but it’s not entirely clear how much Bertie knows about Edith’s relationship with Michael. He has to know that they were close enough that Michael left everything to Edith, but he clearly does not know about Marigold being Edith’s . I think he should be able to connect the dots (Edith has a ward whose birth coincides with the relationship to Michael, who left her everything). Edith also finally has the realization she should have had episodes ago: that Downton is Mary’s realm now and that she would be better off spending more time in London. Goodness, it’s only taken her five episodes to reach the obvious conclusion. Before they leave the apartment for dinner, Bertie and Edith kiss in a sweet moment. Finally, Edith gets a love interest, though I know something is going to happen to tear them apart. No one on Downton Abbey can be happy for long.

Baxter is prepared to testify, but it turns out that she doesn’t have to when Coyle changes his plea upon seeing the list of witnesses. She calls this anticlimactic, which it definitely is. Molesley jokingly asks if she wants him to go ask Coyle to change his plea back. Well, that plot went nowhere. I think there were better ways of developing the character than convincing poor Baxter to testify, and then it never happening. It is just a rehash of another old plot. Sigh.

Thomas finds a frustrated Andy looking over his pig farming books. Thomas has been trying for weeks to befriend Andy, but Andy apparently doesn’t want to be friends because he thinks it will give Thomas the wrong idea. Gigantic eye roll at that; maybe he and Daisy would be a good match. Anyway, Thomas asks Andy the title of the book he is reading, and, rather than answering, Andy hands him the book. Hmm… Thomas seems to think this is strange too, and, later, when he hears a lamp crashing in Andy’s room, he goes to talk to Andy. Thomas has rightly deduced that Andy can’t read, and he generously offers to help him learn to read and write. Andy apologizes for the way he has treated him, and Thomas tells him that he has heard worse. This has been the Thomas redemption season thus far, and I have to admit that it is working.

The hospital fight continues. Dr. Clarkson is changing his allegiance, so Denker confronts him on the street, calling him a traitor. Clarkson writes to Violet about Denker, and she quickly dismisses Denker. Spratt asks Denker if she had been drinking before she yelled at Clarkson, and I rather think she had (remember what happened in London with Andy?), but Denker chooses to use this moment to enlist Spratt to save her. If he doesn’t, she will bring him down with her by revealing to the police that Spratt hid his prison escapee nephew. Spratt talks to Violet and saves Denker’s job. I do wish Denker would go away; she is so tiresome. This show needs a villain with O’Brien gone and Thomas being nicer, but Denker isn’t interesting enough to do the job properly.

Violet invites Minister of Health and future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Downton Abbey to try to get him on her side in the hospital fight. She gets him to be there through some sort of mysterious scheming, but she clearly hopes that she will be able to convince him despite the fact that staunch opponents Cora, Isobel, and Dr. Clarkson will also be at dinner. Robert is not feeling well, and Cora feels that this could be an excuse to put the dinner off, but Robert says that Violet will just make them do it another time and he would rather get it over with. The hints about his health are not so much anvil-sized as a whole parade of elephants stampeding right at Robert. This cannot end well.

During dinner, fighting goes back and forth, but I didn’t catch any of it. I could only notice how ill Robert looked during the scene. The makeup department did a top notch job of making him look very sick indeed. Robert tells them to lay off the arguing and gets up from the table. He doesn’t get very far. Instead, he projectile vomits blood everywhere and, convulsing, falls to the floor. Dr. Clarkson says to put him on his side and keep him very still until the ambulance arrives. Robert tells Cora how much he loves her, and Cora tells him to stop because this isn’t the end.

While they are transporting Robert to the ambulance, Cora and Violet have an argument, during which Violet wonders if Cora is talking about Marigold in the context of the evils of concealment. Mary is within hearing distance, and she finally gets it. Finally.

Tom talks with Neville Chamberlain until a car can be brought for him. You would think that Tom, being well aware of politics, would have a whole bevy of things to say to this conservative man. A younger version of Tom would have anyway, the more interesting Tom, but the current Tom is very mellow and does not seem to care that he has a moment with a highly influential politician, one whom another character even said could eventually be prime minister. Tom has changed a lot over the course of the show, but I’m not sure if it is for the better. The only topic Tom, who was once obsessed with the need for political change, has to discuss with Neville Chamberlain is how Violet convinced him to come to dinner. The answer is sort of disappointing, as is the whole exchange. I think that Sybil would be disappointed, too. She was all about change and equality despite the world she was born into, but this current Tom has turned into a very establishment, status quo person.

The servants wait for news about Robert. Mr. Carson takes a call from Lady Mary, and his face is so grave that it could mean anything. He announces that Robert has had an operation and is expected to recover. Cora is going to stay at the hospital with him overnight, but Edith and Mary will return. They start to scramble to get things ready for them. Upon their return, Edith goes off to check on the children, and Mary remarks that of course she is going to. Tom and Mary have a conversation in the hallway. Mary concludes that she and Tom will have to do everything. Robert’s illness was caused by stress, so he won’t be able to be involved in the day-to-day tasks of running the estate anymore. I thought Mary had already taken over a majority of things? But I suppose it is even more necessary that they should do everything.

In her room, Mary asks Anna if the servants gossip about Marigold, and Anna seems clueless about it. That was a rather ill-advised question. I know Mary trusts Anna, but what right had she to ask it? It implies more than just the question. In any case, Mary guesses the truth. What evil she will do with this knowledge I don’t know, but we shall undoubtedly find out very soon.

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.

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 3

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Lady Edith is going to London again to deal with her insubordinate editor. This is precisely what happened last week. Granny asks her if she plans to stay with her aunt, but she is planning to stay in her own flat! Wow, actual progress. I think part of my frustration with this season so far is that most of the storylines have very, very low stakes, with very, very obvious conclusions, but they drag out week after week. Does anyone doubt that Edith belongs in London? That the hospital should be modernized? But, alas, I am getting off track. Granny seems to think it might not be proper for Edith to stay alone in London, but hasn’t her daughter Rosamund been living alone in London for years? It hardly seems scandalous, but maybe it is too much to expect consistency. It is a bad sign when I have to keep reminding myself to just enjoy the pretty costumes and forget about the plot and characters.

Sigh.

While in London, Edith runs into the nice agent, Bertie, from the shooting party at the end of last season. He asks Edith out for drinks, and they agree on a time. At the paper, Edith argues with the editor over some of his decisions. It seems he is recycling magazine covers and generally not doing a good job. Edith fires him, finally! Even the secretary, who is apparently called Audrey, sitting outside of the office barges in afterwards, glad Edith found the guts to get rid of him. They decide that they’ll pull together to get the issue done without the horrible editor. Edith leaves momentarily to inform Bertie that drinks won’t be happening, and he responds with an offer to help. Well, how wonderful. I can already see where this is going, and it is nice that Edith is getting a romantic subplot. They do an admirable job, and Edith realizes that she can do the magazine work herself. But she won’t do the job again. For secret reasons. Best not to ask, I suppose, but Edith should simply realize London and being more involved in the magazine would be the best thing for her.

Back at Downton Abbey, wedding plans continue. Mrs. Hughes informs us that Mr. Carson and Lady Mary won with their plans of having the reception at Downton with elegant, meagre food. Mrs. Hughes claims that she doesn’t care, but when did that happen? She cared a lot about it last week. Where is the consistency? This scene doesn’t even have a pretty dress to distract viewers since Mrs. Hughes is showing a rather dowdy outfit to Mrs. Patmore as the wedding dress. Mrs. Patmore is no fashion plate herself, but even she is not impressed. But not to worry, she has a plan to help her good friend.

Mrs. Hughes gets more help when Lady Grantham hears that Lady Mary has pressured Carson and Mrs. Hughes into having their reception at Downton Abbey. With Lady Mary present, Cora questions Mrs. Hughes until she finally admits that all she wants is a wedding breakfast at the schoolhouse. If she truly did care about it, I do not understand why she gave up and agreed to Mary’s plan. Maybe just so we could have another low stakes scene where Lady Mary is annoyed and embarassed in front of the servants. Carson agrees to the breakfast at the schoolhouse rather quickly, and after they leave the room, Mary starts sniping at her mother. That is interrupted when Carson reenters, but Mary is clearly very annoyed.

There is a very strange subplot in the Dowager house with Spratt and Denker. Spratt has a shifty family, apparently, although it has never come up before. His nephew has escaped from prison and Denker saw something. When the police come to ask questions, they both say that they did not see the escaped nephew. All you need to know is that Denker plans to hold this over Spratt’s head, but surely the moment she lied to the police, she lost her advantage?

Lord Grantham is still feeling a bit sick. Indigestion, he says, but this is another small thing that has been simmering all season, so it is bound to turn into big trouble soon.

Tom Branson has written Mary the most homesick, purple prose letter ever written. Dreams and strolls through the grounds of Downton Abbey. I suppose he’ll be back soon, then?

Anna is happy because she may be pregnant, but she tells Lady Mary instead of her husband. Why? Why doesn’t she tell Mr. Bates? Just tell your husband what is going on, Anna, so he can take the good and bad. That is the point of being married.

Molesley helps Daisy study for her exams, and it strikes me that he missed his calling. He is not a very dashing footman, but he is very invested in Daisy’s success and dedicated to helping her succeed. After hesitating a bit, he tells her that the Drewes will be leaving their tenancy, and Daisy reaches the conclusion that obviously Mr. Mason can take over. That is what I had assumed last week, too, so I don’t fault Daisy, but I only thought so because it felt very neat and tidy, narrative-wise. However, it seems it was a bit too neat and tidy because we are getting anvil-sized hints that nothing of that sort has been decided. Daisy meets Lady Grantham in the hallway, and poor Cora is so flummoxed that she can’t get out words to correct Daisy. If Mr. Mason doesn’t become the new tenant farmer at Downton Abbey, I wonder what sort of angry tirade Daisy will go on.

Thomas continues to be hated by the other servants, with the exception of Baxter, and to search for a new job. Another ad answered, another run down estate. You would think, after the first ad, he would realize being a footman or valet at a grand estate is no longer a viable job. He needs to look at shops. I think Thomas would fit in better in London, but he apparently has a soft spot for the Downton area and is resisting change.

Mrs. Patmore ordered a wedding dress for Mrs. Hughes from a catalogue, and, as with all orders from a catalogue, it looks nothing like the picture. When Anna tells Lady Mary about it, she says that they can borrow one of Lady Grantham’s coats. Just like that, without even asking, because she is entitled and presumptuous Lady Mary. So imagine, for a moment, Anna and Mrs. Patmore in Lady Grantham’s bedroom, helping Mrs. Hughes raid Cora’s closet, with the permission of Lady Mary. And let us leave them there to be dealt with soon, for this cannot end well.

The hospital issue has not been resolved yet, but Lady Grantham is becoming more involved with her opposition to the Dowager Countess. It is frustrating because it seems such a simple thing to resolve to the good of all, but the Dowager Countess is stubborn. Feelings are hurt and Cora is tired and it has been a long day and all she wants is some rest. And then she finds Mrs. Hughes in her bedroom trying on her clothes. She sends them on their way, wondering how dare they, but even when tired, is that at all like Cora? But then it gives Mary a chance to chatise her, just as she did to Mary earlier, but it was all Mary’s fault, so she really has no moral high ground to stand on. Cora apologizes to Mrs. Hughes and gives her the coat to keep, which is much more like her.

Wedding day! This is one of the better scenes so far this season. The perfect amount of being sentimental about characters we have spent five plus seasons caring about. Anna and Mrs. Patmore and Baxter help Mrs. Hughes to get ready. Tears, but not too many, during the ceremony. Mrs. Hughes was right about the schoolhouse. Everything looks very nice, food and table settings and decorations, though I wish, after all the trouble about it, that I could remember what the dress looked like.

We even have a wedding crasher. Tom Branson has come back with Sybbie to Downton Abbey and will stay for as long as they want him. They are his family, he says, amid the joyous reunion and the ending of the episode.

Way to upstage the bride and groom, Tom.

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 2

Edith has gone back on her intention of moving to London. She is still arguing with her belligerent editor over the phone from Downton Abbey. When she decides to take a trip to London to deal with the issue, she does not even stay in her own flat. Her aunt asks her why, but even Edith does not seem sure why she is not living in London. It apparently has something to do with never having lived alone? If anyone is a candidate for happily living alone, it is Edith. And, besides, Edith, with her connections at the paper, would find plenty of friends and dinners to attend whenever she wanted. What does she gain from living at Downton Abbey? She is merely under the watch of Mary and her cruel judgments, putting Marigold in danger of seeing the Drewes again, particularly Mrs. Drewe, who did not want to give up the child. Speaking of which…

While Edith is in London, Mary, who does not know Marigold’s true identity, takes the children down to the Drewes’ farm to see the pigs. Edith feels that Mary would use the secret as a weapon, which, yes, I think that is true, but she will find out eventually. While they are at the farm, Mrs. Drewe has a weepy meeting with Marigold that shows that she is not over her obsession with the child. Lady Grantham watches the exchange warily, clearly wishing that they had not brought Marigold anywhere near the woman. Why couldn’t they have invented some sort of illness for Marigold, any excuse at all, to keep her away from the Drewes’ farm? It seems silly to say, “Lady Mary wishes for it to be done, and so it shall” when so much is at stake. Lord Grantham speaks to Mr. Drewe about his wife, but he says that he has it under control, so there is not much more that Lord Grantham is willing to do.

Meanwhile, Daisy is fretting over her speech last week to Mr. Mason’s new landowners. Molesley (who should really get more to do on this show) gets her a copy of past examinations to prepare her for her own, which at least temporarily makes her happy, but she is troubled by her father-in-law’s fate. She wishes that Lady Grantham could do something about it and decides that she has to speak with her about it. It would be better, she reasons, to know that she did everything she could. Lady Grantham thinks that, perhaps, there is a chance that she could have an idea for Mr. Mason, and I have a feeling that things are about to work out too conveniently, given the trouble with the Drewes.

Anna is the queen of drama. Can’t the woman get a single break? She is crying in private about her inability to have a child, and Bates wisely tells her that she should share her problems with him. Lady Mary, in a moment of kindness, brings Anna to London to see a specialist, the same one she saw when she was having difficulties before she had George. The doctor knows what the problem is and seems to have a solution, which I hope bodes well for Anna. She certainly is a great deal happier after the visit to London.

Given his past in the house, Thomas is somewhat of an outcast. He is continuing to see his redundancy and feels hostility from the rest of the house, so he interviews for a new position. It does not go well. Not only would he have to fill various roles (chauffeur and valet and footman), the man who is interviewing him seems to sense that Thomas prefers men and is prejudiced against him for it. Poor Thomas. I would never have thought, during the first season, that there would come a time when I would feel bad for Thomas. So does Baxter, but he does not want her pity or sympathy, so he is simultaneously hated and ostracizing himself.

Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are having more problems with their wedding planning, but this time it is about location. Lady Mary is insistent that the reception should take place at Downton Abbey. Mrs. Hughes feels that, since it is her wedding day, it should take place somewhere else. She rightly feels that Downton is just the place she works and not who she is. However, Carson has always had a soft spot for Lady Mary and does not want to go against her wishes. This is not resolved by the end of the episode, and I do hope Mrs. Hughes wins. After all, if it were held at Downton Abbey, I doubt that Lady Mary would be doing any of the work setting up the reception. She is saying that they can use the space, but not that they won’t have to do all of the work of getting it ready for the reception.

The Dowager Countess and Isobel are still fighting over the hospital. Each are trying to gain votes to their own side, and despite my deep admiration of Dame Maggie Smith, I feel that Isobel is bound to win this fight. It is all about change and progress, and this series has always been on the side of change.

Lady Mary is taking her role as the new agent, and her first course of action is to enter one of Downton Abbey’s prized pigs into a local competition. Hence the visit to the Drewes’ farm described earlier. During the showing of the pigs, Mrs. Drewe arrives and lurks in a most sinister way. When Lady Mary wins, everyone is distracted and Marigold disappears. It does not take Mr. Drewe long to realize what has happened. He drives with Lord and Lady Grantham and Lady Edith to his farm (leaving Lady Mary, poor thing, to be miffed about having to find her own way home). Just as Mr. Drewe suspected, he finds his wife with Marigold in one of the more chilling scenes of the series. I can sympathize with Mrs. Drewe (having the daughter that she always wanted, and then having her taken away by wealthy, entitled people), but the scene was presented in an extremely creepy way. Mr. Drewe takes the child from his wife and brings her back to her family, agreeing that he should find a new place as soon as possible.

I do wish that this season had brought new storylines. Instead, we get a rehash of the secret daughter drama and more Anna troubles. It would be a better solution, since the Drewes have otherwise been such good tenants, for Edith to finally move to London with Marigold. But then Mr. Mason needs a place, so it seems that the Drewes must go. Given the difficulty Mr. Mason is having, would it really be that easy for Mr. Drewe to relocate his family? And London really is the best place for Lady Edith and Marigold, which makes the resolution all the more frustrating. I had high expectations since this will be the last season, but everything has a very Cold Comfort Farm feel to it. Lady Edith, if you are unhappy, do something about it. That is all.

Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 1

Last night’s episode did not make much sense to me, character-wise. Lady Mary decided to deal with a blackmailer by, honestly, not dealing with the problem, and she is praised for it. Mrs. Hughes takes a similar stance on her marriage with Mr. Carson (honestly, what on earth did she think it meant to get married to him? And why face the issue by avoiding it? It is not like her). Daisy has a loud outburst that was not only out-of-character but so awkward that it made me literally cringe for her. The Dowager Countess and Cousin Isabel embark on an extremely boring battle over the local hospital. The Dowager Countess’s lady’s maid, Denker, decides to cause trouble with word of possible downsizing. Anna is silently being destroyed by secrets she is keeping from her husband.

It seems only Lady Edith acted at all sensibly.

Let’s start with the Lady Mary storyline. A maid from the hotel that Lady Mary stayed at with Tony Gillingham says she has proof of the affair and will go public with the story if she does not pay up. Lady Mary chooses to ignore the threat even as the blackmailer makes extremely bold visits to Downton. It was like Mary was pretending that, if she waited long enough, the problem would resolve itself. However, the potential blackmail did not just involve her and her reputation. It could have ruined Tony as well, and, being self-absorbed Lady Mary, she did not even think of that. Instead, she was very lucky indeed because Robert found out and managed the situation properly, by offering a much smaller sum of money and threatening to call the police. In a puzzling display of pride in his daughter, he then told Mary that he was proud of her and that this proved to him that she should take the place of Tom Branson and run the estate. What? How did he reach that conclusion? She handled everything very poorly by ignoring the problem, did not stop for a second to think about how her actions would affect others (namely Tony and Mabel), and was only saved because her father was much smarter than her.

Oh well.

Next, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. I think, here, the script could have used a bit more subtlety. In Emma, for example, Jane Austen does not describe the heroine’s response to the proposal. She simply says that Emma said exactly the thing that she ought, and that’s the end of it. Why, oh, why couldn’t it have been left to that? Mrs. Hughes is smart enough to have accepted a proposal fully aware of whatever “wifely duties” there were. Why does it have to be her who is worried that she is not good enough? She makes poor Mrs. Patmore have the conversation with Mr. Carson. It is not at all like the Mrs. Hughes viewers have grown to love over the course of the show. The fact that everything is resolved for the better makes me feel like this storyline was simply unnecessary filler to put off the wedding for a few weeks. And the worst sort of unnecessary filler is awkward unnecessary filler.

Now, Daisy. The estate where her father-in-law, Mr. Mason, is a tenant farmer is being sold, and he is worried that he won’t be kept on. Because of Daisy, he does not have to worry about it any longer for it seems a certain thing that he will not be kept on. I did not understand why Daisy made her angry, hostile speech to the new owner. Is it supposed to show that she is becoming more educated? If anything, it showed the opposite. As it was, she made a fool of herself and worsened Mr. Mason’s situation and would have been dismissed herself if it had not been for the kindness of Lord and Lady Grantham.

There is a battle over the hospital, and it is so dull that it is not even worth mentioning. Suffice to say that Dame Maggie Smith is being criminally underused. Can’t she get a better subplot than a hospital?

Lord Grantham is also not feeling that well, still. We saw this last season, and it seems he does not want to worry his wife with the news. He goes to rest after a hunting party and asks Mary not to tell Lady Grantham. This will turn out well, I’m sure.

In other news, Lord Grantham is starting to realize that having a large number of servants at Downton Abbey is not only ridiculous but not economical. I feel that someone might remind him that one has an under-butler because one’s current butler is growing old and getting married and possibly could be leaving soon, but that is neither here nor there. Denker gets word of the news and causes havoc among the servants, with Thomas realizing that he might be the odd one out. Does anyone else miss scheming Thomas? He made the house more interesting, true, but it is nice to see him acting like an actual human being, giving piggy-back rides to young George and Marigold. I feel that the news of possible downsizing might bring out the worst in him. Anyway, Denker thinks that she is indispensable, being a lady’s maid, but the Dowager Countess rules by fear and, in one of the better moments of the night, reminds Denker who is boss and that she is not as irreplaceable as she might think.

Meanwhile, Anna is walking the halls of Downton Abbey, crying, and apparently no one has noticed and confronted her before this? This show has some of the nosiest and will-not-give-up-until-we-find-out-what-is-wrong characters on all of television, and no one has managed to realize that Anna is silently falling apart. Finally, it comes out while she is talking to Bates. She has had a few miscarriages and is worried that she will never be able to give him the children they both want. It was a heart-breaking storyline, but I wish that Anna would have said something about it before so that she did not have to suffer alone. The couple get very good news when the Green murder cause is resolved, and Anna is finally no longer under the pressure of a potential murder charge.

Finally, we get the only character who made any sense at all: Lady Edith. She is beginning to wonder if she might not have a better life in London, where she could live freely with her daughter, Marigold, and run a paper and have a life of her own, rather than stay at Downton Abbey where she has only the sniping of Lady Mary and potential judgment about being an unwed mother. Edith, as she should, seems to have decided on London. I do hope that is where the character is headed. Otherwise, it seems such a waste to have her wallowing around Downton, unappreciated.

This has been an episode about the dangers of ignoring problems or keeping silent (Lady Mary, Mrs. Hughes, Anna, Lord Grantham) or telling too much (Daisy and Denker). Only Lady Edith was completely and appropriately open about potentially moving to London, though I wonder if the secret daughter will come back to haunt her later in the season.

 

That’ll do, Pig

Forget self-help books. Fictional books and TV shows offer a wealth of information about how to better live one’s life. After moving on from a re-read of Cold Comfort Farm, which is the ultimate introvert’s guide to rationally ordering one’s life, I turned to Gilmore Girls.

For anyone who has never seen it before, the show focuses around Lorelai Gilmore, her daughter, Rory, and their life in the almost-perfect and very quirky town of Stars Hollow. Lorelai had Rory when she was in high school, and their relationship is much closer than the typical mother and daughter. Rory is bookish and brainy and has dreams of attending an Ivy League university. Lorelai runs an inn and has a series of doomed relationships because every viewer knows she is meant to be with Luke, the grumpy diner owner. Basically, it is a perfect show, balanced with humor and great characters and emotionally charged moments.

“That’ll do, Pig” is the title of season 3, episode 10 of Gilmore Girls. Lorelai’s mother, Emily, is dealing with her impossible mother-in-law, and Lorelai gives her some advice gleaned from years of dealing with Emily and every other difficult person in her life:

  1. Find the humor in every situation
  2. Remember that it’s not personal (the reverse of the classic excuse: it’s not me, it’s you)
  3. Do what you want to do anyway

Following this advice, you will find that it annoys controlling people. They revel in making others miserable, in imposing their will, but if you smile and do just as you please, you will find your life immeasurably improved. Although you cannot control the actions of other people, you can control your own reactions. Seeking approval from controlling people is a frustrating exercise of running in perpetual circles. The other people in your life will never be satisfied, there will always be something more they want you to do, and you will never be happy following someone else’s path instead of your own.

There is a time in one’s life where drama feels interesting and fresh, where slammed doors and yelling might seem exciting. But drama has a way of wearing thin very quickly. Give yourself a nice, “That’ll do, Pig,” and, if you are Emily Gilmore, eat very, very slowly to annoy your mother-in-law.