Previously on Downton Abbey: Anna decided the best way to deal with Bates was to treat him like shit, Mary turned down a marriage proposal, Cora got another ladies’ maid, courtesy of Thomas, and Alfred got a chance to maybe train at the Ritz.
Poor Bates emerges from his cottage, alone, and walks up to the house, where Anna stands in her room, alone, and applies some cover-up to her still bruised eye. She comes downstairs and finds Bates waiting at the base of the stairs. A little meanly, she tells him she doesn’t know why he always waits for her. Because you’re his wife and this is the only way he gets to see you now, Anna? He calmly replies that he wants to be the first to greet her. She says there’s no need and he says he’s going to keep this up until she explains what the hell happened between them. Reasonable enough. A dark-haired woman interrupts and is greeted as Miss Baxter. Presumably she’s Cora’s new maid. She asks about a sewing machine, and after she leaves, Bates asks Anna what she makes of the woman. Anna thinks she’s nice enough, and Bates wonders why she’s friends with Thomas, if she’s so nice.
Over breakfast, Patmore asks Hughes and Carson if it’s ok for Alfred to get some cooking lessons from the kitchen staff. Carson, rather surprisingly, is fine with it, supporting Alfred in his chosen path to go to the Ritz cooking school, though I seem to vaguely recall him not being so gung-ho on people leaving their service positions in the past. Maybe he considers becoming a chef to still be service.
Upstairs, Cora gives Baxter a rather baleful look as the meek-seeming woman places her breakfast tray on the bed. Cora asks about the orange juice on the tray and Baxter says she’s heard Americans tend to like it with breakfast. Cora calls her thoughtful and dismisses her as Robert comes in and tells her that Tom and Mary have summoned him to the library to hear some new idea. She hopes they don’t all end up fighting about whatever it is.
Clarkson’s visiting Isobel to ask her to see about finding a gardening job for some village kid. He suggests she throw her weight around at the Abbey or with Violet. She doesn’t seem too excited.
Apparently Tom and Mary’s talk is about some tenant who’s died, and who was apparently way behind on his rent. They want to foreclose the lease and farm the land themselves. Robert’s sad to see that happen, when the same family’s been farming the same land for hundreds of years, but Mary briskly says they have to move with the times. On the subject of moving along, Robert shows Mary the engagement announcement between Gill and Mabel Lane-Fox. Mary says she’ll go write him a letter to congratulate him.
Belowstairs, Baxter’s operating a sewing machine while Patmore and Daisy observe like it’s some foreign object they can’t wrap their heads around. Come on, sewing machines had been around for more than fifty years by this point. Patmore thinks it should be chucked out and Thomas tells Baxter she’s not what one would call a futurist. Anna comes in briefly, sees Bates, and hastens out. Baxter offers Daisy a go on the machine and she eagerly agrees.
Out in the hall, Hughes tells Anna she should really let up on Bates. I agree. I know Anna’s still pretty messed up—with very good reason—but this seems unduly harsh and really, really unlike her. Also, we find out that, thankfully, there’ll be no rape baby. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief there, because I wouldn’t have put it past this show to do that and I’m glad they didn’t go down that horrible and highly charged road. Hughes urges Anna to tell the man something, but Anna says he’ll know if she’s lying. She says she wants to be honest with him, but she’s still terrified of what he’d do and she can’t risk his future. Hughes won’t tell, but she thinks this behaviour is a mistake. Anna leaves, and we see that Bates was tucked away behind a door, listening to this whole conversation. Well, at least he knows for sure it’s not anything he did.
Isobel is meeting with—and grilling—the young potential gardener. She promises to try and find something for him, then rings a bell and has him shown out. Once he’s gone, Isobel tells Clarkson the kid will be disappointed once he finds out she’s not important at all. He says the village sees her as being one of THE Crawleys, which counts for a lot. She says the Crawleys don’t see her that way. What’s with her attitude this week? She’s being kind of snippy and a little mean here about the Crawleys. Has something happened in the intervening weeks that presumably came between last episode and this one? Even Clarkson’s rolling his eyes at her.
Robert reports to the late tenants’ funeral and has a talk with the son, who says he wants to take over the tenancy. Robert regretfully says that’s not an option, because the notice of termination has been served. He gently says they did all they could and gave the man a lot of leeway over the years. The young man says he wishes someone had told him about the difficulties, because he would have tried to help (it’s implied he’s gone away to form a profession elsewhere). He reminds Robert that his family’s farmed the land since the Napoleonic Wars and asks to be able to talk about it. Robert says he can come by in the morning, though he’s not sure how much he can do.
Up at the house, Daisy’s schooling Alfred on tarts with egg and cheese filling. When he goes to fetch something, she admits to Patmore that it’s a little hard to do this, because she’s helping him leave. Patmore gently tells her it might be for the best, in the end.
Edith and Cora come back from a walk, and Edith immediately asks if any letters have arrived for her. Apparently not. Oh dear. She admits to Cora she hasn’t heard from Michael in a while and Cora suggests he’s just busy. They go into the library, where Mary’s writing to Gill and trying to hide the fact that she’s crying. Edith admits she was surprised to hear about his engagement, since he seemed rather keen on Mary. ‘Not the first time you got the wrong end of the stick,’ Mary snaps. Ahh, there’s the Mary we’ve grown to know and loathe. Rose comes in, so Edith suggests they talk about Robert’s upcoming birthday. Mary suggests a small party to cheer themselves up.
Isobel reports to Violet and asks about hiring the gardener boy, John. ‘I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara around the clock,’ says Violet. As Violet zingers go, that’s pretty mild, but it’s one of the best she’s come out with this season, so—Ha! Violet agrees, a tad reluctantly, to take the boy on.
Mary actually goes and visits her kid, and finds Tom there playing with little George and Sybbie. Mary comments that the new nanny is much more laid back than hers was, and asks Tom if he thinks Sybbie is having a good childhood. Well, she’s growing up in an enormous house with all the toys and servants a little girl could want, not to mention the adoration of her parent and several close relatives, so I’d say yes, she probably is, despite Sybil’s absence.
Alfred gets a letter from the Ritz and starts to panic, because this’ll tell him if he’s been accepted or not for a test. He’s so nervous he can’t even open it, so Patmore does and tells him he’s got his test the day after tomorrow. Anna comes floating in like a ghost and hollowly says she’s happy for him. And then the dinner gong goes, giving her an excuse to get lost quickly, before she has to interact with her husband, or anyone else. Patmore quietly tells Bates not to worry, because Anna just has a lot on her mind. ‘Haven’t we all?’ he intones.
One of Alfred’s cooking successes comes out of the oven and Patmore ooohs and aaahs over them and tells him to make sure the family knows he made them, when he serves them at dinner. Jimmy snarks and Patmore tells him not to rob Alfred of his joy. He sneers that he can’t see much fun in a life chained to a stove, which is a really shitty thing to be saying to the entire kitchen staff.
Upstairs, everyone praises Alfred’s cheese puffs or whatever they were, and wish him luck on his test. Edith pipes up that she’s going to London herself, just for the day, to visit Michael’s office.
Thomas finds Baxter sewing away in the servants’ hall and asks her how she’s getting along with Cora. Baxter says they seem to be getting on well. He gives her some pointers on how to ingratiate herself and also advises her to be friendly with the other servants, which was O’Brien’s failing. And Edna’s, I’d say. She informs him the other servants don’t like Thomas much and he says that’s what she’s there for—to rectify that particular failing on his part. Hmmm.
Over her breakfast tray, Mary asks what the deal is with Anna living back in the house. Anna lies that she just hasn’t gotten around to moving back to her actual home. Mary says she wishes Anna would tell her, if she’s having some kind of problem, but Anna says there’s nothing wrong.
Alfred swings by the kitchen to say goodbye and thank the staff for all their help. Aww, he’s so sweet, this one. Daisy tells him to keep calm and Ivy wishes him luck. Carson hustles him out to catch his train. With him out of the way, Patmore turns to the staff and tells them to be ready for when Cora comes down later that day, and make sure everything’s ship-shape. Why the hell would Cora be coming down to the kitchens? The lady of the house never bothered herself with such places, not in grand houses like these. That’s why you had a cook and a housekeeper. They ran the kitchens and acted as a go-between, respectively. Daisy notes that Patmore’s apron is torn and Patmore immediately starts to fret, because her other apron’s in the wash. Thomas offers to have Baxter sew it up and she hands the apron over.
Alfred’s catching a ride to the station with Edith, and she takes the opportunity to wish him luck as well.
The tenant’s son has come to Robert with an offer to take over the lease, though apparently he can’t pay the back rent. He promises to, eventually. Robert, reasonably, is not interested in this relationship. The man leans heavily on family history, telling Robert his family’s worked in partnership with the Crawleys for all these years. That gets right to Robert’s sense of custodial ownership and he promises to see what he can do. He also offers to front the young man, Mr Drew, the money to pay back the rent, presumably so he’ll have a stronger case with Mary and Tom. Hmmm, I sense Robert may regret this particular decision, though young Mr Drew does seem in earnest.
Carson swings by Hughes’s room with a suggestion that they hire Molesley as a footman if Alfred ends up going to London permanently. Molesley will love that. He has no doubt that Molesley, having been so humbled, will be glad of the chance.
Robert brings the suggestion they let the Drews stay to Mary and Tom over lunch, and Mary observes that it would have been nice to have this discussion first, before Robert made his mind up. Isobel, of course, thinks it’s splendid, and Tom seems ok with it because of his socialist leanings, or something, though Mary’s clearly not on board. Still, majority rules, and Robert, rather meanly, tells Mary that she can give the man the good news she’s so keen on denying him. She looks like she’s been slapped. Why is everyone so mean this episode?
Bates meets up with Anna in the boot room and tells her how much he loves her and how he wishes she could talk to him. She only says she’s going into Ripon that afternoon and will be back before the dressing gong.
Patmore marvels at the sewing job Baxter’s infernal machine has done on her apron, thanks her, and leaves as Thomas comes in. Baxter says she’s grateful for this job, but she’d like to know why Thomas put her forward for it. He says there are going to be changes at Downton so he wants to know what’s being said upstairs. Oh, he just wants a spy. Baxter asks why Anna can’t be his informant and he says she’s too incorruptible. Baxter adds that she’s also too silent.
Cora’s come downstairs to tell Patmore they’re going to get a refrigerator, which freaks Patmore out. I still say this is something she’d have had the housekeeper tell the cook. Or, if she really needed to talk to Patmore, she’d have summoned her to the morning room or wherever she was hanging out. Grand ladies just didn’t wander down into the servants’ areas, it was seen as someone else’s domain. It’d be like just walking into someone else’s house uninvited.
The young gardener, John, is being dispatched to his duties in Violet’s gardens. She seems surprisingly anxious about taking this young man on. What does she think he’s going to do, kill her prize roses? It’s not like he suddenly has sole charge of the garden, he’s just an under-gardener.
Edith’s trip to London has taken her the offices of Dr T Goldman.
Meanwhile, the sous-chef at the Ritz tells the testees they will be making four dishes each, and to introduce them, he has a little quiz about vichyssoise. Alfred doesn’t know the answers to any of the questions about it, but the other chefs do, so he kind of gets saved. The chef tells them all to get started.
Mary’s interrupted in her latest letter writing by the arrival of…Evelyn Napier! YES! I never expected to see him again, though I rather loved him when we first met back in series one. Welcome back, Evelyn! Mary greets him happily and affectionately and asks what brings him by. He’s on some government job and was in the area, so he thought he’d swing by. He tells her that she’s been on his mind a lot lately since Matthew’s death and that it’s nice to see her looking so lovely.
Belowstairs, Jimmy finds Ivy alone in the kitchen and tells her Mary wants some tea. Ivy ignores him, so he asks what’s up and she tells him it’s not cool for him to keep talking down Alfred all the time. Glad someone finally said it. He says he’s sorry but thinks it’s lame Alfred’s never been to London. Ivy says she’s never been to London either, but she really admires Alfred for showing some drive and ambition. Go, Ivy! Glad you’re finally seeing this jerk for what he really is. Jimmy says he has plenty of ambition where she’s concerned and she giggles and tells him not to be so soft. Sigh.
Evelyn and Mary have been joined by Cora and Robert, who asks him what he’s working on. Apparently he’s checking out landed estates to see what kind of financial damage they suffered in the war years and the aftermath and see if any are likely to survive. He says it seems that some will, but mostly the work is kind of depressing. Downton’s not one of the ones in serious trouble, thanks to really lucky inheritances, but Mary says that, nonetheless, she’d like to hear what he thinks of the changes they’re making. Robert warns her not to add to Evelyn’s work. She moves on to inviting him to stay at Downton and he says that won’t do, because he’ll have his boss with him. Also, the last time he brought someone to stay at Downton that guy ended up dead. He doesn’t mention that, but it’s the first thing I thought of. The boss’s name is Charles Blake. Cora says they should both come and stay, and Mary seconds it.
Sous chef tries Alfred’s food and says he did quite well, but he’s curious about his footman career path. Alfred says he wants to do more with his life. The guy says they have a big decision to make, but they’ll make it quickly.
Bates finally goes to see Hughes and tells her he knows she knows what’s up with Anna and he really, really needs to know what it is. She won’t talk, so he threatens to leave, because he can’t bear to stay there, when he’s so miserable and thinks his wife no longer loves him. Poor Hughes is in a really impossible spot here, but she folds and tells Bates that Anna loves him very much and she thinks that coming home to find him gone would finish her. So, she’ll talk.
Violet comes into her sitting room to find young John watering a plant. Violet goes to her desk and seems to find something amiss, so she ask John if anyone else has been there. He has no idea.
Hughes has finished telling the story, only leaving out the ‘when’ of the incident, and apparently the real who, only saying it was some unknown assailant. He figures it out immediately, though, because he’s not an idiot and can date exactly when this whole thing started, so he knows Gill’s valet is his man. Hughes lies that it wasn’t him so Bates asks if she’ll swear it. Hughes stammers that it was a random man who broke into the house and, when Bates presses, swears away. He promises to find out who it is and she tells him to go ahead, but she’s not sure what he has to go on. Oh, Hughes, don’t tempt the man.
Afterwards, Bates goes out into the hallway, and everything sinks in and he begins to weep.
Robert meets up with Edith in the hallway before dinner and asks how London was. She says it was fine and asks about Evelyn’s visit. Robert says he was just in for the afternoon. I guess he’ll be coming back to stay at some later date, then.
In the library, Rose tells Cora and Mary she had an idea for Robert’s party, but before she can share it the man himself comes in and asks if they’ve come to a decision about Drew. Mary says it seems like a done thing, and Robert chuckles that Tom’s socialism will ensure he’s on board with it. Tom uses the opening to say he’s been thinking a lot about his beliefs since the house party. Robert tells him to leave off about the house party already, adding that someone just said something stupid to upset him, and it’s not worth it getting so worked up. And what exactly was that thing that upset you so much, Tom? Explain! Mary asks to be caught up and Tom says nobody was rude, he just feels like he doesn’t belong there. ‘Welcome to the club,’ snorts Edith. ‘Oh, stop moaning,’ Mary tells her witheringly. Pot, Kettle, have you two met? Robert asks if he thinks he belongs back in Ireland and Tom says he doesn’t think so, but he’s pretty sure America would suit him well. Oh, Tom, think that through carefully. You’re considering moving to a country so wrongheaded it actually outlawed alcohol, and in a few years will tank its own economy so thoroughly it’ll actually drag the rest of the world down with it. He thinks it’ll give Sybbie a chance to grow up somewhere with a totally clean slate, in a land where she’s not just known as some chauffeur’s daughter. Right, because snobbery totally doesn’t exist in America. It’s not quite as class-bound as in Britain, but it’s definitely still there.
Carson’s summoned Molesley to tell him about the footman gig, which seems a bit premature seeing as how they don’t yet know if Alfred’s leaving or not, and is outraged that Molesley wants time to think about it. Molesley, understandably, is fairly reluctant to backpedal in his career, whereas Carson thinks he should just be grateful for anything at all. Jesus, Carson, imagine how you’d feel if someone offered you a footman’s position and acted like you should just be grateful they even acknowledged your existence.
Bates finds Anna in the boot room again—they’re really loving that new set, aren’t they?—scrubbing away at some shoes, despite the fact that it’s nearly midnight. He gently pulls the shoe out of her hand and tells her he knows about what happened. He admits he made Hughes talk but says she claimed it wasn’t Green. Anna backs that up, and good thing, too, because Bates threatens to kill the man, which is exactly what she was afraid of. Anna says she has no idea who the man was, and they have no way to trace him. Bates asks why she didn’t say anything and she claims it was because she knew what kind of pain it would bring him. Apparently she believed the pain of thinking his wife no longer loved him would pale in comparison. She admits it’s something of a relief to have it out in the open, and to no longer be afraid of being found out, though she says she’s ashamed. Bates tells her there’s no shame in what happened, not for her. She weeps and says she’s spoiled for him and he clasps her face and tells her she’s not spoiled at all, but made holier and higher to him because of the suffering she’s been through. Oookaaay, that’s a little strange and really goes hand-in-hand with his awful line last week about her being blameless because she’s completely perfect. The pedestal this man has her on is a dangerous place. Still, solid acting from both here. He goes on to say that he’s never loved her more than he does now, and she falls into his arms. Well, I’m glad they didn’t draw this out further, because it was going to get to the point where it stretched credulity that he could remain in the dark much longer.
Alfred’s results from the Ritz arrive, and now he’s sufficiently calm to open it himself. Unfortunately, he didn’t get in. They do tell him he was nearly in the top four, but not quite. ‘I expect they say that to everyone,’ sneers Jimmy. Oh, for GOD’s SAKE! Do we really need another Thomas? What is wrong with this guy? Carson tells Alfred there’s no shame in this.
Showing some rather terrible timing, Molesley shows up and asks for a word with Carson. He and Carson step aside and Molesley says he thought over Carson’s proposal, and talked it over with his father, who was disappointed but supportive, and he has reconciled himself to this particular downward trajectory, which, I will say, would have been highly humiliating in a way that it’s difficult for people nowadays to really appreciate. The servant classes had just as distinct a pecking order as the aristocracy, and that was especially strong in servants who’d served in pre-war households, like Molesley. This would be like…I don’t know, a CEO being demoted to janitor. Is there anything wrong with being a janitor? No, of course not, not in the least, but for someone used to commanding a lot of respect and wielding a lot of power, that’s a significant downward fall. Carson lets him go through his whole spiel, and then cruelly tells Molesley that Alfred’s not leaving, and he really should have accepted the job when Carson first mentioned it, because then Carson would have been stuck with him. But as it is, Molesley has missed his chance. I hate Carson sometimes.
Poor Molesley shuffles off, and Carson apparently tries to make up for being a supreme asshole by comforting Jimmy and telling him he just has to keep at it, and he’ll succeed.
Isobel has Clarkson and Isobel over to tell them that something’s gone missing, and she’s pretty sure John took it. Why is Clarkson there for this? He’s the town doctor, not a magistrate. And as far as I can tell, aside from knowing the young man, he has no connection to him. Also, doesn’t he have a hospital to run? When we saw it back in series one, it seemed to be doing pretty brisk business, but these days he seems to have all the time in the world to just pay calls on Isobel and wander about. Strange. Isobel sticks up for the kid and immediately takes offense at the idea that Violet thinks the boy might have stolen what Violet describes as a ‘very valuable paperknife, given to George Grantham by the King of Sweden.’ Isobel jumps on the last bit, sniffing that that must make all the difference. Violet agrees that it makes the loss greater, and I can’t really blame her for saying that. It’s not like she can just nip ‘round to the shops and get another one, you know? Clarkson points out there’s no proof against the boy, and Violet knows that, so she’s not going to sack him, but she won’t have him in the house, and she’ll have a word with the head gardener. Isobel thinks that’ll do the boy some harm, so Clarkson suggests Violet be told when the boy will be in the house, so either she or another servant can be present to keep an eye on him. Without even giving her a chance to answer, Isobel jumps down Violet’s throat and asks if she’s already made up her mind about this kid. Violet asks her if she ever doubts, and Isobel, who’s only met this boy once, that we know of, claims not to doubt the young man’s honesty. I sure hope that doesn’t come back to bite her in the ass sometime. Also, I see that she’s showing she’s moving past her grief by becoming obnoxious, overly touchy, and insufferably self-righteous again. Awesome.
Mary and Tom pay a visit to Drew, who thanks her for letting him stay. He’s determined to prove they made the right choice, and promises to pay Robert back just as soon as he can. Of course, the money’s news to Mary, who asks what he’s talking about. He tells her and Tom about Robert’s loan and they pretend they knew about it all along and bid him good day, shaking his hand before they go. As they leave, Tom asks Mary if she’ll challenge this and Mary says she won’t, because if Robert believes enough in Drew to lend him the money, it must mean they’re in partnership with a decent man. Or an overly trusting one, I can’t help but add.
Anna goes to see Hughes, who looks pale and like she knew this confrontation was coming. Hughes reassures her she swore on her mother’s grave that it wasn’t Green. Anna says she’s moving back into the marital cottage, and Hughes is really happy to hear that. Anna goes on to say that Bates has shown a great generosity of spirit and they’re going to try and put the whole thing behind them. Hughes says it’s a shame to think of that evil man running about, but maybe it’s for the best. Come again? I find it hard to believe that it’s ever ‘for the best’ to have a violent rapist running around free.
Patmore runs into Daisy in the hall and asks why she’s so happy. Daisy tells her Alfred’s not leaving, and she can’t help but be happy about that. Anna passes Bates with a smile, and Hughes catches him and says how happy she is that this is all over and done with. With a slightly creepy smile, Bates tells her nothing’s over and done with. He’s going to find out who did this if it’s the last thing he does, apparently.