Downton Abbey: Letters from Beyond the Grave

11981Previously on Downton Abbey: Mary’s grief threatened to swallow up the whole place, so it’s no wonder O’Brien took to her heels and Edith took every opportunity to rush down to London to look amazing and party with the literati. Hughes and Rose meddled in things that didn’t really concern them, bringing back two characters nobody missed at all, and Thomas got the randomly racist nanny fired.

Oh, look at that, the title sequence is back. Guess Mary really has started to shake off the gloom.

Hughes gets a letter from Gwen, who reports that she’s married and hopes to introduce her new husband to the other Downtonians soon. If she shows up with Jon Snow I may actually completely forgive this show its many recent trespasses. Edna, now settled in her role, goes rushing out to answer a bell and runs into Thomas, who asks her how she’s finding the position. She says she’s doing fine, and she doesn’t care if others don’t care for her. Talk about speaking his language. The next person to intercept her is Anna, with some advice: don’t trust Thomas. Best advice ever given in this house. Jimmy hauls a large parcel into the servants’ hall and wonders what’s in it. It’s for Mary, being delivered from Matthew’s office. Hughes quietly suggests Carson deliver it to Robert instead, in case there’s something in it that could cause her distress.

Robert opens the box and finds that stuffed dog thingy Mary gave Matthew when he went off to war, along with some letters, one of which falls out heavily.

Back downstairs, Jimmy reads a newspaper article about an actress named Phyllis Dare coming to a neighbourhood near them. Ivy gets all excited over the idea of attending a theatrical performance someday, as she’s never been. Jimmy’s shocked.

Robert takes the mystery letter to Violet, who tells him he has to show it to Mary. Apparently it states that Matthew wanted Mary to be his soul heiress. Robert, being the idiot that he is, doesn’t want to show it to her because it might not be legal. Oh, for God’s sake, are we really still expected to believe that a lawyer by trade wouldn’t have made all this legal, even if he didn’t expect to die? Robert further compounds the idiocy by whining that it’s not fair to exclude little infant George. Seriously, Robert? Does your brain work at all anymore? First off, George is a baby. He’s not really being excluded from anything just now. His mother is running things for him anyway. Second, as Mary’s only child, he’ll inherit everything from her anyway, at some point. So he’s not actually being excluded at all. Why is he allowed to make decisions at all anymore? Violet, thankfully, tells Robert this isn’t really up to him and when he suggests sending it to Murray, she orders him to show it to Mary first and accuses him of trying to keep sole control of the estate for himself, which is what I’m assuming is really the deal here. Methinks the earl doth protest too much.

Clarkson visits Charlie and declares him fit as a fiddle and tells Hughes the man needs something to do, or he’ll start getting restless. Hughes sighs that it’s hard enough for young, able-bodied men to find work these days. When Clarkson leaves, she goes to see Charlie herself and he immediately asks after Carson. Hughes tells him Carson still refuses to see him, because he’s really busy, though he sends his best wishes. Charlie’s smart enough to know when she’s lying, mostly because she’s terrible at it, and he calls her out. He also says it’s his fault that he and Carson fell out.

Alfred and Daisy gossip about why Jimmy’s suddenly seeming interested in Ivy. Daisy sees no evil in it, but Alfred thinks Jimmy’s just messing with her. Further discussion is put on hold by the arrival of Patmore, saying they’ll have to send to York for fish that week, and Jimmy himself, who offers to go.

Anna’s walking through the village and spots Molesley working as a road labourer. He’s embarrassed, despite her sunny greeting. He tells her he’s pretty much at rock bottom, having not earned any money for months, which means he now owes money all over the village. Anna gently offers to lend him the cash, or even give it to him. He just as gently refuses it, but thanks her sincerely for the offer.

Robert has sent for Mary, so they can have a quick chat before dinner. He tells her about the suddenly appearing letter and hands it to her. She’s not happy to hear that her father and her grandmother looked at it first, but settles down to read it.

Anna tells Bates about Molesley’s sad situation and is clearly upset by it, which upsets Bates.

Mary and Robert go downstairs and tell Isabel and the others about the letter. At Mary’s invitation, Robert reads it. Mary weeps at the end and we learn it was witnessed by two clients at the office, so it may very well be official. Robert dumps on that and says that, whatever they may think, this is not a will. Why does it really matter? Whether she’s acting for her son or herself, Mary’s going to have a say in the running of the estate, right?

Belowstairs, Patmore tells Jimmy she’s received permission from Carson to send him to York. Jimmy scampers off happily and Alfred hisses to Daisy that the guy clearly has something up his sleeve. Patmore tells him to get lost and deliver dinner.

The family’s now gathered around the dinner table, all happy to have heard a little bit more from Matthew. Well, almost all. Robert complains to his mother that, if the letter is genuine, the estate will have to pay death duties twice before George gets it (presumably because of both Matthew’s and Mary’s eventual deaths), but Violet tells him the place will benefit from Mary’s interest in it first. It will? Branson, sitting by Mary, tells her he hopes she intends to take a more active interest and she says she plans to at least have an active opinion. Robert says she already has that and starts asking her questions about what to do with some bits of land and the taxes, etc., all to prove just how utterly clueless she is, which is fair enough, I have to say. Running these places was complex business, and you can’t just suddenly thrust yourself into it (unless you’re a man on this show, apparently, in which case you’re automatically qualified just because you visited your grandpa’s farm a few times). Branson defends her, saying Mary knows a lot about Matthew’s plans and Isobel falls in with Mary. Robert says he just wants Mary to know she has a lot of work to do. And that’s if the letter proves genuine.

Thomas finds Edna looking a bit distressed downstairs, because she’s gone and spoiled something of Cora’s. He takes her somewhere to take care of it. Bates and Anna pass and Bates suggests they take Gwen’s card to the village so people can sign it.

Before going home, Isobel visits with Hughes and tells her that the manager of an opera house she wrote to is in need of a stage door manager and is willing to take Charlie on. Hughes brings up the letter and says she hopes it wasn’t too upsetting. Isobel found it to be a relief, but realizes it may be a heavy thing for Mary to manage.

Mary, getting ready for bed, tells Anna that her father really came down on her at dinner and makes her grandmother’s observation that Robert’s rather enjoying having Downton to himself again.

Anna’s next stop is Rose’s room, because Rose asked to borrow a belt from Mary. But Rose has another request: she wants to go to a dance, but she needs a chaperone. Would Anna go? Anna wonders if it’s going to be a suitable place for someone like Rose to attend, but Rose doesn’t care. Anna says she can’t go without telling Mary. Rose begs her not to and reminds Rose how much she likes dancing and how fun it would be. Anna, the responsible one, repeats that it’s impossible.

Edna shows the ruined garment to Cora but can’t say what happened to it. Cora pouts.

Hughes finds Carson rifling through some old papers from his theatre days. He finds a picture of a woman named Alice and tells Hughes he was fond of the woman once and felt she’d treated him rather badly, but it’s all well in the past now. ‘Well, that’s cheered me up,’ she says drily. Heh.

Bates pays a visit to Violet and reports that Molesley has fallen on hard times. He’s taking up some kind of collection, apparently.

Cora comes downstairs and runs into Thomas, who tells her that Edna is really upset because of the spoiled garment and, in a slightly roundabout way, blames Anna for ruining it. Sigh. Anna is one of the only people who’s ever been nice to you, Thomas! Why are you more loyal to frigging Edna than you are to Anna? This MAKES NO SENSE!

Up in her room, Mary accidentally drops a perfume bottle, spilling most of it on the rug, but at least has the grace to take the blame on herself, instead of shifting yet more onto Anna, who rushes to clean it up. Anna asks if all the perfume spilled and, when Mary says it has, offers to go to York and pick up some more. All roads lead to York this episode, don’t they? Anna also mentions Rose wanting to go to the the dansant and Mary gives her permission to go but warns her to keep the girl out of trouble. Easier said than done.

Bates delivers Gwen’s card to Molesley, who doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic about signing. Bates also invites him up for dinner, which throws Molesley a bit, because Bates was never so friendly to him before. A very smiley Bates promises to do better in the future.

Violet is having Branson and Mary over to her place to see about getting Mary up to speed on the running of the estate. She asks Branson to start taking Mary on his rounds and explain how things go and what the issues are, so she can learn a bit. I can’t believe Violet’s the only person who thought of this. Mary asks how they’ll do this without telling her father, since it all seems a bit underhand. ‘There can be too much truth in any relationship,’ says Violet.

Isobel pays a visit to Downton to talk to Carson about Charlie, who wants to see Carson before he leaves for the opera house in Belfast. Carson still doesn’t want to see the man, even less so when Isobel tells him that Charlie confessed he caused Carson great pain, but also claimed it wasn’t his fault. Oh, come on, Isobel, how did you think that would go over? Isobel urges him to take the chance to end a quarrel while he still can and Carson essentially tells her to just butt out already.

Edith is down in London, having lunch with Michael in his ginormous house. He offers to make her some coffee and she teases him about being so domesticated, telling him that her father can’t even manage to boil a kettle. That’s not all he’s completely incapable of, Edith. In fact, I think that’s the least of it. Michael says he hopes Edith can boil a kettle, because life with him won’t be quite what Edith is used to. Please, Michael. You could practically land a plane in your living room. She asks how things are going with the whole divorce issue and he says his lawyer says it’s coming along. She frets that people will hate him for becoming German and he asks if she’ll hate him. No, of course not, she’ll love him more than ever. But before all this goes down, she wants him to come and visit Downton. Cora’s giving a house party the following month, so he can come then, and blend in and not be put on the spot. Michael agrees, and then tries to get her to stay with him, instead of catching the afternoon train home. Edith seems to seriously consider it, and then regretfully tells him that it’s getting harder and harder to say no. You know, all this handwringing over the German thing—is it really going to be such a huge deal? Is he going to have to go live there permanently and adopt a German name and accent and everything? How will people know he’s taken German citizenship unless he tells them? This sort of feels like more fake drama.

Mary and Branson head off on lesson one.

Meanwhile, over in York, Jimmy spots Anna and Rose and watches them go into a dance hall.

Inside, the place is dark and definitely not catering to the better class of people. Anna orders up some tea, while Rose tells the waiter to ‘suggest something special.’ He wanders off and Rose immediately starts thrusting her chest out, prompting Anna to warn her not to be so obvious. Rose doesn’t listen, of course, and when a young man comes over and asks her to dance, Rose agrees immediately and walks off with him. Once they’re gone, Jimmy comes over and asks Anna if she wants to dance. She agrees, just so she can keep an eye on Rose. Rose, meanwhile, hears her partner is a gardener at one of the nearby estates, so she lies her ass off, telling him she’s a maid at Downton.

Branson’s got Mary up at a good vantage point, where he points out various properties around the area. He then brings up the death duties. Robert thinks they should sell land and pay them all off in one lump, but Branson wants to know what Mary thinks.

In his room, Bates practices forging Molesley’s signature and looks pleased with the results.

Anna and Jimmy are still dancing, and Jimmy tells her he bought theatre tickets for himself and Ivy, because Ivy’s never been. Anna teasingly asks if he’s falling for Ivy, while over in Rose’s corner two guys start fighting over her. Before long, there’s a full-on brawl, which Rose gets involved in, until Jimmy grabs her and he and Anna hustle her out before the police arrive.

Molseley arrives at the servants’ hall and Bates immediately tells him he found a note about a debt he owed Molesley, and says he’d like to pay it off. Molesley, of course, is confused, but Bates has paperwork and everything. He hands over the cash while Molesley’s still puzzling over it, and just as Anna comes in, fresh from her York adventure. Outside the servants hall, she asks Bates how he managed that and he tells her that prison was an education.

Jimmy has Hughes and Patmore in Carson’s room so he can ask for permission to take Ivy to the theatre. Carson’s reluctant to change Ivy’s half day off, but since the family will be dining out, he gives permission and sends Jimmy away. Once he’s gone, Patmore hopes Jimmy won’t break her heart, but Hughes thinks a good heartbreak is good for everyone. Right, teaches people not to trust. Very healthy.

Patmore leaves, and Carson muses that it’s hard to believe the theatre was once part of his life. That’s a hamfisted way for Hughes to bring up Charlie’s imminent departure, on the 11 o’clock train the next day. She tells Carson he really needs to let this open wound heal.

Robert arrives in his dressing room, where he finds Bates and immediately tells him to tell Anna to not wreck things so Edna looks bad. Bates, obviously, is confused as hell but tells Robert there’s no bad blood between Anna and Edna. Robert tells him to just make sure things don’t get out of hand. Why isn’t Cora having this conversation with Anna?

Ivy’s walking on air at the thought of going to the theatre. She frets about what she’s going to wear and Patmore tells her they’ll come up with something, and get moving on fetching some parsley! Alfred pouts that it’s only a stupid play, nothing to get all worked up about and when he’s gone, Daisy whines that he’s just as keen on Ivy as ever. Patmore tells her to sit tight, because young men change their minds all the time.

Speaking of young men, Rose’s young dance partner is now approaching Downton. Great. He reaches the back door and rings, and Thomas answers. Anna, passing by, hears the man ask for a housemaid named Rose and tells Thomas she’ll take care of this. She lies that Rose is a bit busy at the moment, but she’s just fine, thanks for asking. The guy asks to see her and Anna asks him to wait where he is and she’ll see what she can do.

She catches Rose coming down the stairs and tells her the guy’s come to talk to her. Rose gets all girlishly giggly and asks what she’ll do. Anna drags her off, takes her downstairs, and kits her out in what I guess is a spare uniform before sending her out to see the guy. Rose tells him he was very brave for punching that horrid man and thanks him for checking on her. He asks to be allowed to call on her again, rather cutely telling her he can get a good reference as to his character from his employer, and she lies a bit more and tells him she’s kind of already engaged to a farmer. He wishes her luck, shakes her hand, and leaves. But before he goes, Rose tells him that any girl he meets later will be a very lucky one. And then she kisses him, before Jimmy comes out and wonders what the hell is going on. Rose hisses at him to say nothing about this.

Edith returns home just in time for dinner, pausing only to smooth her dress before going into the drawing room. Rose follows her in, now back in her usual clothes, and with everyone assembled, Robert says he’s received a letter from Murray. According to Murray, it seems like the letter was intended to stand as a will, so now Mary owns half the estate. The others file out and Mary suggests she, Robert, and Branson sit down the next day to chat about things.  She brings up the estate taxes, saying she doesn’t agree with Robert’s plan to sell off land to pay it, but they’ll talk about it later. She goes into dinner, and Robert accuses Branson of putting her up to this. Branson claims he did no such thing, but when Mary’s got the bit in her teeth, it’ll be nearly impossible to pull her up.

Bates has evidently told Anna about the Edna situation, and she’s just as confused as he is, because all she did was warn the girl about Thomas. The pair go into the servants hall and find Thomas and Edna hanging out and giggling together, and they both get ‘oh, I see; looks on their faces before Carson comes down and yells at Thomas for hanging around downstairs instead of serving dinner. Thomas leaves, and Edna keeps giggling, so Bates asks her what’s so funny. She says it’s nothing. Does every maid of Cora’s have to become Thomas’s hag? Is that a condition of the job now?

Later, Carson sits in his room, looking at the picture of Alice and thinking and looking sad.

The next day, Isobel, Hughes, and Clarkson escort Charlie to the train station, he still looking around hopefully for Carson. The train pulls up, and Carson magically comes walking out of the steam. The two men go to have a chat and Isobel says she’s not surprised it came out this way. Hughes, on the other hand, is astonished.

So, apparently, the rift between Carson and Charlie was over…Alice? What? I was under the impression that Carson was angry with this man for how horribly he treated him when he was last at Downton, which would have made sense. There was never any mention or hint that they had a falling out over a woman. And they never even mention the whole stealing/blackmail issue, which makes me think Fellowes has actually forgotten about it. This show can’t even keep track of itself anymore. Charlie says that Alice died five years ago, and anyway, things didn’t work out between them, because she always loved Carson. Oh, whatever. Charlie says he never intended to steal her. So, I guess they’re friends again, with that whole blackmail thing totally behind them. They shake hands and Carson wishes him well before Charlie climbs onto the train and it pulls out of the station. Carson asks Isobel to tell him about any expense she went to on Charlie’s behalf. She reluctantly agrees and he bids her good day. As he walks away, Hughes catches him up and suggests they walk back together.

7 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Letters from Beyond the Grave

  1. The Carson subplot was so unnecessary. Robert is such a terrible person. What happened to the likeable person he was in the first season? But the worst of this episode was Thomas and Edna ganging up on Anna. WTF, seriously. Like you said, Anna’s always been nice to Thomas and he has NO reason to gang up on her like that. I’m sick of having to feel sorry for Thomas only to then hate him again for being a prat.

    1. I feel like maybe there will be a subplot coming up with Carson and Hughes, so it may have been important to show that Carson is over his past loves…idk, just what I’m thinking 🙂

  2. A horrific thought – isn’t Cora’s father established as being Jewish, in a latter season? If Edith were to move to Germany and become German, she’d wind up in the Third Reich with a Jewish grandparent, making her legally Jewish under those laws.

    1. Yikes, hadn’t thought about that! Though, I didn’t get the impression that Edith and Michael were planning to make Germany their permanent home–he was just basically using the country to get his divorce. And even if they did, I imagine the two of them would have quickly escaped back to England (which they could easily do, being very well-connected British citizens and all) once they saw the writing on the wall.

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