Previously on Downton Abbey: Bates was proven innocent, and because the wheels of justice are really well oiled on this show, he was declared a free man in about ten minutes. Robert popped his already stuffed shirt at the thought of Ethel serving lunch to the ladies of his family and Branson threw oil right on that fire by telling him Baby Sybil would be christened Catholic. And Matthew jumped in by having the temerity to suggest the estate not be run quite so idiotically.
Bates makes his way out of jail—hey, the limp’s back! There seemed to be little evidence of it while he was inside—while Anna waits in the family car to pick him up. I’m sorry, but no. No way would any family of that time be so benevolent as to lend out the Rolls to pick up the former valet from prison. Husband and wife have a joyful reunion and head back to Downton.
There, the servants are discussing the reappearance of Bates, with Alfred wondering if they should make the whole prison thing a taboo subject or just chat about it at will. Bates chooses that moment to arrive and is given a warm welcome by everyone except Thomas, of course.
Upstairs, at the Breakfast Table of Baleful Glances, the usual quartet has gathered. Edith has another letter from that editor, repeating his offer, which gives Robert an opportunity to repeat his offer of being a horrible father who runs her down at every opportunity. Matthew thinks it’ll be a good idea for Edith to go up to London and see the editor. “Please don’t encourage her,” Robert says condescendingly. Christ almighty, this man. Matthew stands his ground, so Robert moves on to other matters: being passive aggressive about Matthew’s attempts to make this place run properly. He leaves and Branson asks Matthew if he wouldn’t rather just cut and run, like Branson is.
Out in the hall, Robert spots Bates and is over the moon to have him back, like everyone else. He promises to have Jarvis, the estate agent, find him and Anna a cottage to live in. Bates thanks him and asks if they can do something about Thomas, in the meantime. Robert promises to sort it out and suggests Bates chill for a bit.
Violet goes to see Isobel and complain about Ethel’s presence. She doesn’t fault Isobel’s motives, but points out that Ethel is notorious in the village. “I don’t think so,” Isobel says idiotically. Come on, Isobel. You’re not that stupid—you know Ethel’s got a reputation around here. Violet calls BS on that and accuses her of bringing scandal to the family. In comes the lady of the hour with tea and Isobel announces that Ethel’s cooking has improved greatly. Ethel chimes in that a working woman must have a skill. Oh, man, too easy, that one. Violet’s brain briefly goes into comeback overdrive and she returns the volley with: ”but you seem to have so many.” Not bad, but I was expecting more zing. Or perhaps just an artfully raised eyebrow.
Cora and Robert discuss the Thomas situation. Cora thinks it’s wrong to just sack the guy when he’s done nothing wrong and suggests he talk to Carson about it. Yeah, I’m sure Thomas would be delighted to go back to being a footman. Cora turns her attention to Branson and Baby Sybil and Robert shortly asks if Branson’s said any more about moving out. Honestly, does this man care nothing about his own grandchild? What a complete cold fish. Cora can’t believe he’d want Branson to move out when he has nowhere to go as yet, and anyway, they owe it to Sybil to take care of him and the baby.
In the Servants’ Hall, Thomas asks if Bates has plans, and then Molesley comes in and asks Thomas where he plans to go when he inevitably gets sacked. Thomas looks like he hasn’t even considered this, which seems a bit naive. Albert starts talking about some new Lillian Gish movie he wants to see and asks Ivy if she wants to go. She will if Jimmy does, but he’s not interested. And Hughes will only allow the others to go if they’re properly supervised.
Matthew, Jarvis, and Robert are discussing the radical notion of investing in new machinery for the estate in the hope of making it more efficient. Guess who’s for and who’s against? Robert thinks this is all ridiculous, because Downton’s pottered along quite well doing things the same old way for centuries, thank you very much. Jarvis chimes in that Matthew is very new to ‘their way of life’. Translation: progress is soooo middle class. Matthew finally voices what we’ve all been shouting for weeks, which is that the place was ready to go belly up quite recently. Robert insists that that had nothing to do with how the place was run and Matthew snaps that Robert’s been bailing out the place with Cora’s money for years, and if it’s going to survive, they have to change things. Robert tightly says they have a few things to think about, he and Jarvis.
Violet drives through the village and sees Ethel burst into tears on the road at the sight of a baby carriage. She looks thoughtful.
Edith has gone to her grandmother for backup over this newspaper article notion, but Violet doesn’t agree with it at all. Of course not. She’s of the generation that was in the newspapers for birth, marriage, and death and nothing else. And when she told Edith to find something to do, she meant lead a local charity or paint watercolours or something. You know, girly stuff. Edith is firm, though, and tells her she’s going to London the next day to meet with this editor. She doesn’t want to anger her father, but she doesn’t want to be invisible either, because she’s fed up with that. Go Edith!
As Ethel serves tea, Isobel notices something’s bothering her and asks what’s up. Ethel admits that one of the female shopkeepers wouldn’t serve her. Isobel says they’ll take their business elsewhere, then. Isobel, remember that this is a small village and you could very well run out of places to shop before long. Just saying.
Alfred reports to the kitchens and eagerly asks Ivy if she’s looking forward to their date. Patmore tells her to bring her home safe. Alfred asks her about the seasoning for one of the dishes and Jimmy makes fun of him for it. Patmore sticks up for all the male cooks of the world and Carson comes in to tell Jimmy to stop being a pill. Alfred gets to bring in the meat that evening, while Jimmy gets the sauce. Jimmy whines about not being first footman, and Ivy backs him, so Daisy puts in her two cents and tells Alfred that he’s taller and more senior than Jimmy, which means he should be first footman, so why does he want to take Ivy out when she talks about him like he’s stolen Jimmy’s rightful job? Alfred has no good answer for that. Daisy, move on. This ninny’s not worth your time.
Upstairs, Branson cradles the baby. In comes Mary, who sits nearby and asks how the christening planning is going. He says it’s all been arranged and she’s surprised he didn’t tell anyone. He says he didn’t think they would want to know. She asks for him to give them a chance to behave properly. In Robert’s case, that day will never come, Mary. She smiles down at the baby and Branson suddenly asks her, the least nurturing female person in this house, to be the godmother. Uh, when did Mary convert? Because in the Catholic church, only Catholics can be godparents. That’s because being a godparent in the Catholic faith is seen as a fairly important spiritual duty. Nice research fail, show. He goes on to say that his brother will be godfather, and that he’s coming to stay in the village for a bit. Mary says he’ll stay at the house. Oh, her dad’s gonna love that. Branson says he’s a bit of a rough diamond but Mary doesn’t care.
Bates and Anna stroll hand-in-hand along the country lanes, and although he’s using a cane, he’s not limping at all anymore. They talk about which cottage they may have and what Bates will do for a living. Anna blithely says Thomas will just have to go. Bates savours that bit of revenge on his former tormentor.
Thomas, meanwhile, smokes in the corridor as Jimmy stomps past, still bitching about not being first footman. Thomas stops and tells him these things can be changed, but he has to keep his temper in check. Jimmy goes and O’Brien swoops in to tell Thomas the two of them make a cosy little couple. She tells him Jimmy talks about Thomas all the time, in a very soppy way. Well, look at you, Mme Machiavelli.
Upstairs, Jimmy corrects the placement of some serving utensils on Alfred’s tray before he goes into the dining room, where Robert’s getting annoyed with Matthew for inviting Murray up to Downton without consulting Robert first. Violet draws attention by knocking against the awkwardly placed utensils on the fish tray Alfred’s holding. Nice one, Jimmy. Violet brushes it off and tells Isobel she saw Ethel in the village earlier and she looked upset. Isobel says one of the women was mean to her, because some people are so unforgiving. “Some people are unforgiving, others are insensitive,” says Robert, who is both. There’s some discussion of Edith’s travel plans and Robert asks Violet to talk some sense into her. Violet says she thinks a woman’s place is eventually in the home, but she doesn’t see why she can’t have any fun before she gets there. Edith thanks her profusely. “Have you changed your pills?” Isobel asks. HA! Violet goes on to say that Edith is getting on in years and might not be cut out for domestic life. So, no pills change, then. Matthew asks Tom how his plans are coming along and Tom says he’s planning to join his brother’s garage business in Liverpool. And yes, that would be the brother who’s coming to Downton soon. His name’s Kieran, for the record.
Belowstairs, Jimmy’s explaining how he managed to embarrass Alfred. To O’Brien. Who’s Alfred’s loving aunt. Jimmy is an idiot. He lies that he was only trying to help and didn’t screw around with him deliberately. Carson scolds Alfred but still gives him permission to go to the movies with Ivy.
As they get ready for bed, Mary mildly scolds Matthew for calling up Murray without clearing it with Robert first. He reminds her that she scolded him for not being involved enough and now she’s scolding him for being too involved, and she can’t have it both ways. She says she can if she wants to, because she’s an obnoxious child. Matthew, just consider another 40 years of never being able to do anything right. Good luck. He starts to wonder if their persistent childlessness is his fault. She tells him not to worry, because she’s sure there’s nothing wrong. He’s not so sure, though.
Ivy and Alfred discuss the movie as they walk home.
Jimmy finds Thomas in the servants’ hall and tells him he doesn’t think Carson likes him. Thomas asks about Jimmy’s family—dead parents, no siblings. Thomas says that sounds lonely and he knows what that’s like. He also tells him not to worry about Alfred favouritism, because the upstairs folk don’t like him as much as Carson does. O’Brien comes in and Jimmy peels off. She tells Thomas she knows which way Jimmy bends, though Thomas reassures her Jimmy’s a proper little ladies’ man. She says he’s wrong about that and that Alfred keeps saying that Jimmy’s interested in Thomas.
Jimmy prepares for bed shirtlessly, like you do, while downstairs Thomas smokes and thinks. He then goes up to get undressed angrily.
Alfred and Ivy reach home giggling and getting along swimmingly. He wants to make the dating a regular thing but Ivy says she’s not interested. He tells her Jimmy’s really not that into her but she refuses to believe him. He asks her if it would make a difference if she knew Jimmy wasn’t interested, for sure. She says she’d have to hear it from him.
Thomas sits on his bed, getting agitated.
Alfred heads upstairs to the servants’ bedrooms.
Thomas steels his nerves and makes his way to Jimmy’s room, where Jimmy’s fast asleep in bed. Thomas slips inside and closes the door.
Alfred gets closer.
Thomas leans over Jimmy and plants a kiss on his lips, just as Alfred comes in. Jimmy wakes and freaks out, like you would. He demands to know what the hell Thomas is doing and Thomas tells him not to worry about Alfred and that he’s there because of what’s between them. Jimmy angrily tells him there’s nothing between them and he’d better get lost. Thomas is confused, though you’d think Thomas would really know better than to trust anything O’Brien says. What an idiot. The ruckus wakes Carson, who comes out into the hall to demand to know what’s happening. Thomas says Jimmy had a nightmare. Ahh, yes, the old nightmare excuse. Carson goes back to bed and Alfred peeks out into the hallway, glaring at Thomas, who looks confused and devastated.
Servants’ breakfast the next day is an awkward affair. Anna notes the tension and asks what’s going on. Hughes seconds the question and demands to know what’s up but nobody’s talking. Ivy comes in and Jimmy immediately hits on her, startling and offending Carson, who tells him to ease up. Carson tells the others to let him know if there’s anything he should be aware of.
Edith arrives at the newspaper office and meets with the rather cute editor (I have to say it—he looks a bit like a young Strallen to me). He correctly guesses her father disapproves and tells her that plenty of toffs are writing for magazines nowadays. He urges her to make up her own mind, without considering her father, and she says she needs to think about it. As he shows her out, he ascertains she’s not returning north right away and invites her to lunch the next day so she can tell him yea or nay. She agrees.
While he dresses for dinner, Robert notes that Thomas seems nervous and thinks it’s because of the job situation. Robert promises they’ll get it all sorted out.
Matthew’s got a big map of the estate spread out so he can go over his plans with Mary and Branson. Mary asks him to at least try to persuade her father. Off to the side, Carson asks Jimmy what the hell is going on, but he’s still not talking. Cora and Robert discuss Murray’s arrival the next day, along with Tom’s brother.
And we’re back with Branson and Matthew. Tom agrees they should act now, while they have money to properly compensate any tenants who will be uprooted. Such a chance may not come again. “So says the Marxist,” Robert sneers. Tom holds his temper in check and tells Robert he has a very narrow view of socialism. He has a narrow view of everything, Tom. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to you. Violet tells them all to chill out and asks Tom if he knows anything about farming and Tom says his grandfather was a sheep farmer.
Off to the side, Carson once again asks the footmen what’s up. Carson would never do this in front of the family. He’d haul both of these young men into his office for a strict chat. Alfred hints that Jimmy’s been up to something bad.
Robert can’t sleep, mostly because he’s pissed off about Matthew summoning Murray without his permission. Cora reminds him that this estate is now supposed to be run by two people, not just Robert, and Robert petulantly observes that she’s against him in everything. She reminds him that even Violet though Matthew’s ideas had some merit, but he thinks she’s doing that just because she had some ulterior motive.
Edith meets the editor at the restaurant, apologising for being late after running an errand for Violet. They talk about family and he foolishly brings up Mary’s wedding, which he saw a picture of. He says she looked very glamorous. “People say so,” says Edith. Hee! He rather steps in it by saying he’s happy Edith’s not married, and she says she’s a little less pleased by that and tells him she was dumped at the altar. Honestly, there’s no way this guy wouldn’t have heard about her jilting. That would be some serious gossip that would have undoubtedly made the rounds amongst journalists, even those who didn’t run gossip rags. Editors and journalists are a pretty small, tightly knit group, and they were even more so at this time. He apologises and she tells him it’s fine and she’s going to take the job.
Murray’s trying to act as a sort of middleman between Robert and Matthew, explaining that it’s a good thing to make the estate self-sufficient. Robert agrees but still doesn’t understand why they can’t do that and still leave everything just exactly as it was. He’s completely brainless at this point, isn’t he? Murray reminds Robert that the way things were done in the past were pretty poor: there were numerous near-bankruptcies and the whole estate would have been lost without Cora’s cash. “Murray, when I asked you to say what you think, I didn’t mean to be taken literally,” says Robert. Oh my God, why does anyone have anything to do with this person anymore? He’s not even a character, he’s a complete caricature. Actually, that’s an insult to caricatures, who usually require some thought. He’s a cartoon. A cartoon of a buffoonish rich moron who’s mired in the past. Remember how he was in series one, a fairly benevolent master and father who cared about his family and estate? What happened to that guy?
Matthew tells him they have another chance to make something of this place, but they need to make some changes and wise investments. He goes on to say that the estate has been run very wastefully over the years. At this, Jarvis firmly inserts a stick right up his ass and resigns. Matthew tries to backpedal and apologise but Jarvis will have none of it. Eh, good riddance.
Hughes comes running to fetch Carson from his office. He arrives in the servants’ hall to find Branson’s brother sitting with them and entertaining them all. Branson and Mary arrive and Branson tries to get Kieran to come upstairs, but Kieran’s happy where he is. Mary suggests he come up so he can see his room and get changed, if he wants to. Kieran, who hasn’t developed manners like Branson has, asks what he’d change into, a pumpkin? The staff snort unprofessionally and Carson looks enraged. Kieran suggests Tom join him downstairs and suggests he’s too grand for the others now. Tom angrily tells him his mother-in-law has kindly invited Kieran to her home, and he’s to get a move on and be properly grateful. Kieran reluctantly drags himself away. Once they’re gone, Hughes turns to Carson and invites him to repeat his pronouncement that Tom would bring disgrace down on the house. To her surprise, though, Carson thinks Branson’s behaviour was exemplary.
Upstairs, Mary asks Matthew how the meeting went and Matthew tells her Jarvis resigned. She’s shocked, but recovers when he invites her over to chat on the bed. He says he’s sure he can make the place safe for their children, but he needs her to believe in him. She kisses him by way of answer.
That night, Alfred tells O’Brien about what he stumbled across in his room, and O’Brien plants some seeds of doubt as to Jimmy’s lack of interest in the whole affair. She tells him Carson won’t tolerate this and he needs to speak up for his own good, because he’ll be in trouble if it comes out that he knew something and said nothing.
Edith returns home all smiley and quickly gets ready for dinner.
Over the table, Robert asks Kieran what his business consists of. Yes, what does one do at a ‘garage’? Automobile repairs, says Kieran. He says they have rooms over the garage where they can all live. Cora looks horrified, and the conversation reminds Violet of one time a snowstorm forced her to stay at some working-class hotel in Middlesborough. Mary brings up the christening and asks Violet if she’ll be there. She says yes, if Tom wants her to be. He says he’d be honoured. Aww. Matthew pointedly asks Robert and Robert says he wouldn’t know what to do with all that crossing and bobbing up and down. Damn. I’m a lapsed Catholic and even I find that offensive. Tom says that Sybil, who loved her hateful father, would have wanted him there. Since you can’t really argue with the dead, Robert reluctantly agrees.
Matthew asks Edith how she got on in London and she announces she’s now a journalist. Violet figures that makes sense, since they already have a country solicitor and a car mechanic. Wow. Mary asks how the editor was and Edith says he was nice. Mary does one of her odd “oh, well then,” eyebrow raises.
Belowstairs, O’Brien once again urges Alfred to speak out and he says he will. She reminds him that Thomas has broken all the fundamental laws of god and man, and now Alfred can stand back and enjoy his fall. The gleam of joy in her eyes is frightening to behold.
Over coffee, we finally learn what Edith’s errand for Violet was: placing an ad in a magazine offering Ethel’s housekeeping services. And she did it without Isobel’s knowledge or permission. Woah, that’s pretty bad. Violet says she only did so because she knew Isobel would be against it. Well, yeah, Violet, you had no right to go offering Isobel’s servant around! Edith gently says that it might be best for Ethel to go elsewhere, for her own sake.
Kieran asks for a beer, even though a humiliated Tom suggests he’s had enough. Aww, remember how Tom was the embarrassing one just a couple of episodes ago? How I don’t miss those days. Mary, trying to be a good hostess here, asks Carson to scare some up and he reluctantly goes to fetch it. Robert sneers about this and Cora tells him he’s the one pushing Tom into his brother’s arms, and that this is not what Sybil wanted for him at all. As Carson passes, Violet asks him to send up Hughes.
Carson fetches the beer and Hughes, but before he can go topside, he’s pulled aside by Alfred.
Upstairs, Violet asks Hughes if she agrees that Ethel should move along. She does, because she’s never going to get a fair shake in the village. Apparently, after one lesson, her cooking has improved vastly, so she’s all ready! Isobel’s still rightly pissed off that these people arranged all this completely behind her back. Violet tells her she knows she hates facing facts and Isobel indignantly says she resents that. She should. Like most members of this family should be accusing others of not facing facts. Hughes says it’ll do Ethel no good to be constantly reenacting The Scarlet Letter at Downton. Of course, Violet has no idea what that is. Well, it makes sense she wouldn’t be familiar with American literature, having such a hatred for the country and all. Edith explains that it’s a novel. Isobel gives in and agrees to talk to Ethel.
Carson’s struggling to wrap his head around what Alfred’s just told him. Alfred, to his credit, doesn’t fully play his aunt’s game and says he’s pretty sure Jimmy’s blameless in this. Carson tells him not to speak of this to anyone else and sends him away so he can consider how to deal with this.
Isobel returns home and takes a minute to ask Ethel if she’s happy. How’s she really supposed to answer that? Ethel says she’s happy compared to what she was before. Isobel takes that answer to bed with her.
Violet, Cora, and Robert are sitting up late, having a chat. Violet tells Robert it might not be a bad thing, having Jarvis leave, because he’s kind of old-fashioned. She goes on to say that what they really should do is give the job to Branson, which will give her a reason to call him Branson again. Yay? Robert scoffs, and for once, I agree with him. How many jobs can Branson really have on this show? Chauffeur, journalist, estate agent? Come on—none of those are even related! Cora, of course, thinks this’ll be perfect, because he and Matthew, being the same age, can work on Matthew’s ideas together! What does being the same age have to do with it? Robert points out that Branson knows nothing about running an estate and Violet reminds him his grandfather was a farmer. So? My grandfather was a chef, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to run Aramark. Visits to grandaddy’s farm do not prepare you for running a massive estate, which would have many, many farms of various types, as well as other types of properties. It was, actually, a rather difficult job, which is why the estate agent was such a highly valued position. Violet urges him to consider his granddaughter, whom he can’t really want to have growing up in a garage with ‘that drunken gorilla’. Robert agrees on two conditions: Matthew agrees (you know he will) and both Cora and Violet admit it when they’re proven wrong. You first, Robert.
Carson’s now got Thomas in his office to get to the bottom of all this (so to speak). He reminds Thomas that this is a criminal offense and Thomas says they hadn’t done anything. Carson harshly tells him he should be horsewhipped. He asks if Thomas has any defence but Thomas offers none. He admits to being very drawn to Jimmy and thought he felt the same way. He tells Carson that gay men (and women, presumably) of the time have to try and read the signs and signals, because no one dares speak the truth. Thomas tells Carson that Jimmy is a completely innocent party. Carson says he needs to think of this and find out what Jimmy wants to do, because he’d be within his rights to press charges. Thomas goes, passing Hughes on his way out. She peeks into Carson’s office and he tiredly observes that human nature’s a funny thing. She wonders why the poets didn’t come to him, because they would have saved themselves a lot of time and trouble.
Mary carries the baby out of the christening and hands her over to Branson for a group photo. Edith comments that it’s strange not to have Sybil there, but Cora’s sure she’s watching. Branson asks Robert if he’s really sure about him running the estate. Robert tells him to consider it a christening present from Sybil. Matthew seconds the motion. The picture is taken and the photographer suggests a picture with the grandfather, baby, and great-grandmother. Oh, and the priest. Everyone looks like they’re sucking lemons and Cora teases Robert, asking if he’s afraid he’ll be converted just by standing too close. I think he is.