Yes, we’re back at Downton Abbey, six months after Matthew’s death, and the place is literally enveloped in gloom. We don’t even get our usual sunny opening titles. It’s late at night, and a baby’s crying while Mary lies in bed, blinking at the ceiling. Elsewhere, someone sneaks down the servants’ stairs and into the misty morning. It feels a bit like we’re watching a Halloween special all of a sudden.
Anna stands in O’Brien’s doorway, puzzled at the room’s emptiness, and finds two letters on the mantelpiece. Mary wakes, stares at the fire, then the window, and rings for Anna, who’s downstairs, having delivered the letters to Carson and Mrs Hughes. The long and short of it is: O’Brien’s gone, just stolen away in the night (which I find a bit hard to believe considering her devotion to Cora and the fact that doing such a thing could give you a serious black eye, employment-wise). Hughes tells Anna to see to Mary and she’ll deliver the bad news to Cora. Anna hurries topside, delivering the latest gossip to Thomas, who wastes no time passing it along to other servants. Soon the house is buzzing with the news. Wow, things must have been dull as hell at Downton for this kind of thing to cause such a tizzy. I’m starting to understand why she left.
Cora’s aghast, but Robert’s not at all surprised at O’Brien for sneaking off like that. Turns out Lady Flintshire poached O’Brien, so I guess Granite’s been sacked. Hughes admits that O’Brien had a telegram the day before, which must have been Lady F summoning her. Strange. Very, very strange.
Belowstairs, Carson puts the screws to Alfred, who insists he knew nothing of his aunt’s plans.
At breakfast, Edith declares the whole thing a disgrace, just as Rose comes in and says she had no idea about this. Edith sighs and says she can put an advertisement in The Lady when she’s in London the next day. Branson and Robert discuss their plans for the day, which include visiting some of the farms, and Branson suggests Mary might want to come along. Robert hurriedly says that Mary’s not to be bothered, because she has enough on her plate just now.
Yes, apparently she has a very busy day planned of being kind of hollow and reading. Anna tries to hand her a shawl and suggests she take a walk, but Mary just looks at the bit of lace and lilac she’s being offered and asks where the black one is. Then nanny comes in with Mary’s spawn, George, and asks if Mary wants to go for a walk with them. Everyone’s just really working hard to get Mary out of the house, aren’t they? She turns her down, calls George a ‘poor little orphan’, and kisses his head. Anna reminds her what the actual definition of an orphan is, but Mary can’t be bothered with semantics because she’s too busy being the Wallowing Widow. And anyway, considering this family’s luck with male heirs and the fact that, by my calculations, this kid’ll be turning 18 right around September 1939, maybe it’s best that none of us get too close.
Violet runs into Old Mr Molesley outside the church, where Matthew’s immense monument is being installed (apparently it takes six months for a grave to settle. Fact of the week.) She asks if Young Molesley has found a new job yet, since his previous employer has spent six months six feet under and hears that he hasn’t, though he’s been allowed to stay on at Downton, where he tries to make himself useful. Violet can’t believe he’s having such trouble, since he’s properly trained and everything, forgetting how hard this show has worked over the past few seasons to make Molesley into an incompetent clown, which is very much at odds with how he was in series one. Old Molesley says it’s a changing world. ‘You don’t have to tell me,’ Violet sighs.
Thomas meets Nanny West and the nursemaid coming back from the walk, each pushing a pram. He goes over to Sybbie and greets her affectionately, which is cute, and Nanny comes rushing over to ask him not to touch the children without her permission. She says she’s worried about germs. Thomas says he actually knew Sybbie’s mother, which I guess gives him special immunity or something, and Nanny says that doesn’t make him Sybbie’s friend before asking him to have Patmore send up the children’s lunch in half an hour. He sniffs at her to ask Patmore herself.
Belowstairs, everyone’s still talking about O’Brien. Jimmy can’t blame her for wanting an adventure and then accuses Alfred of knowing her intentions the whole time. Bates asks Anna how Mary’s doing and she says she’s pretty much the same, but she has to snap out of it eventually, right? For George’s sake, if for nothing else. Daisy comments that she couldn’t be a nanny, because their position is so strange, being not quite family and not quite servant. I think this show has nannies and governesses mixed up. That was the case for governesses, who were usually from the middle classes and fairly well educated, making them above the servants but below the family they worked for. Nannies were most definitely members of staff, they just didn’t fall under the purview of the housekeeper or butler the way other indoor staff members did. Thomas comes in and sniffs that Nanny West thinks too highly of herself and was giving him orders. Imagine! Actually, she was totally within her rights to ask the under-butler to pass along a message to the cook. But don’t tell Thomas that.
Robert and Branson have delivered some bad news to a tenant, by the sound of it, and we learn that Robert, of course, is abandoning the entire revitalization plan that Branson and Matthew had set out. He says it’s because they need to pay all the death duties and such, but we all know he was just looking for an excuse to go backwards. Branson says he wishes they could wait for Mary to come back into play and have a say in this, since she’s little George’s guardian, which gives her a big say in how the estate’s run, or, at least, it would if she ever showed the least interest in the running of the estate. But she hasn’t. In fact, she’s always made it clear that estate matters bored her to tears, even while Matthew was still alive, so I’m not sure what Branson thinks she’ll really be able to achieve here. Robert sighs that Matthew really should have left a will, and I’m going to go ahead and call serious bullshit on that. You can’t convince me that a contracts lawyer wouldn’t have made a will, especially considering all that he was heir to, and the fact that his wife was expecting a baby. You would have had to be absolutely insane not to make sure your family was provided for and your wishes explicitly spelled out, especially when you recall how reckless Robert is with investments and inheritances. Matthew would never have just left all that up to chance, the guy was a planner. Are you telling me he didn’t even make a will when he went off to war? And that he wouldn’t have then updated that after he was married?
Whatever, Robert thinks it’s most appropriate for him to manage everything, because he doesn’t want Mary to worry her pretty little head about money, when she can barely shift herself to eat these days. Branson agrees that Mary loved Matthew very much, and I really wish I could have seen or felt that, but I never felt like those two actors had very good chemistry, and it only got worse after they married. Robert, with no sense of who he’s talking to, adds that the price of great love is great misery when one person dies. Branson’s like, um, preaching to the choir here? And Robert, to his credit, does look a bit shamefaced and apologises.
Carson’s got Molesley in his office to find out what is situation is. Molesley says he’s been applying for jobs, but none are forthcoming. He’s in a bit of a tough place, historically speaking. Britain was in a considerable recession in the early 20’s, and with so many once-grand families getting slammed with death duties from losing relatives in the war, they were seriously cutting back on staff. Jobs were few and far between for valets like Molesley, and there would have been plenty of applicants for every position. Carson, as gently as he can, tells Molesley that it’s about time for him to leave Downton, since he has no job there anymore. Molesley says he can go to his dad’s, and Carson says that sounds splendid before sweeping out for his lunch.
Upstairs, the ladies talk afternoon plans. Edith’s going to visit Isobel, to see how she’s getting along, and Rose asks to tag along into the village. There’s a really great moment where Rose gets a look on her face that clearly says, ‘Jesus, this place is bleak.’ I feel a little bad for Rose. What would be worse, I wonder, living with two people who hate each other or living in Castle Death here? Cora asks Edith about her London plans. She’s going to see Michael Gregson, her editor boyfriend, of course, and he’s giving a party to introduce her to all his literary friends. Cora, who’s finally learned to be a supportive mother to her middle child, says that sounds splendid, and asks her husband to agree. He just barely manages not to roll his eyes. I just barely manage not to throw the remote control at his head.
In the village, Rose visits the post office and asks to put a notice up in the window. She pays her sixpence and up it goes.
At Crawley Cottage, Edith gently urges Isobel to see more of George. Isobel seems to be taking a leaf out of Mary’s book of hardcore grieving and doesn’t seem interested in her grandson. She does, however, comment on how odd it is that Matthew left the world will-less, considering how meticulous he was. Show, just because you lampshade something doesn’t make it any less stupid. Edith excuses this inexcusable stupidity and tells Isobel to let her know if there’s anything she can do to help. Isobel tells Edith that, when your only child dies, you’re not a mother anymore. You’re not anything. Wow, Isobel. I thought you had a bit more self-worth than that. I mean, you loved your son, of course, but I didn’t think that being a mother was your only identity in life. Edith firmly tells her that she’s a grandmother now, and she’s going to be a great one. Maybe she should get cracking on that. The kid’s already six months old, time to start!
Hughes delivers the afternoon post to Carson, who finds a letter that annoys him. He crumples the letter and throws it away before getting snappish with her about the upholsterers. He leaves, and she rifles through his trash and retrieves the letter. Oh, Mrs Hughes, stay out of it.
A young woman walking through the village finds Rose’s notice, which is for a lady’s maid, of course, in the window. She goes into the post office to ask about it and we see that it’s Edna. Oh, Jesus. I’d really hoped we’d seen the last of her. She chats with the postmistress about how she’s spent the last few months studying to be a lady’s maid. Why, how very convenient!
Hughes is filling in as a lady’s maid for Cora, helping her get ready for bed, and suggests Cora try talking to Isobel, seeing as how she knows something about losing a child. Cora says she thinks she would have died, if Sybil had been an only, but Hughes is sure she would have soldiered on, for the baby’s sake. Robert comes in and Hughes hustles out so Robert can initiate a discussion about who’s going to run George’s share of Downton until the kid’s old enough to make rational decisions. ‘Shouldn’t it be me?’ Robert asks. ‘Why?’ Cora instantly responds. HA! Even she doesn’t think he can be trusted. Cora thinks Robert’s trying to push Mary out, but Robert points out that Mary was never in, and that someone needs to take control here, and since he used to work with Matthew, he thinks he’s the best man for the job. Cora seems less certain.
Letters come flooding into Downton, surprising Hughes, until Carson reminds her it’s Valentine’s Day. She didn’t remember that? It’s not like it’s a holiday that moves around every year. One of the cards is for Daisy and she’s cutely delighted. Bates and Anna both get cards that are unsigned and smile kind of adorably at each other and kiss behind a door. Aww, they were sort of boring me last year, but that was pretty sweet.
Edith’s got a valentine too, and Mary spots her with it as she’s coming down the stairs, looking for all the world like a grown-up Wednesday Addams, but without any of the whimsy. Mary darkly asks what the card is, and then remembers the date. She fixes Edith with a look so stony it makes both her and me uncomfortable, and Edith escapes to go pack for London. ‘Have a happy time,’ Mary tells her, in the same tone of voice one typically uses to say, ‘there were no survivors.’ She continues down the stairs, stopping on the landing to stare at…a newel post or something? A spot where once Matthew stood, I guess. Though if that bothers her so much I’m surprised she’s still in the same bedroom they shared. Seems like that would be even more painful. My great aunt got rid of her entire bedroom set almost immediately after her husband died because she just couldn’t bear to sleep in their bed without him anymore.
Carson’s letter has led Hughes to a workhouse in Ripon, where she’s directed to a Mr Grigg who’s…oh, Christ, he’s Carson’s former music-hall act partner. You remember, the obnoxious douchebag who showed up at Downton in season 1 and proceeded to start blackmailing Carson and trying to get him fired before he was paid off by Robert? That was not a character I was expecting or hoping to see again. Hughes, not knowing any of this story but choosing to insert herself into this drama anyway, introduces herself and, when asked, admits that Carson did not send her. He says that Carson said some harsh things to him the last time they met (which were deserved, you jerk!) but they go back a long way.
Edith arrives in London, practically bouncing off the train, and it’s like the weight of the world has slipped off her shoulders. What a relief it must be to be away from Downton. She’s surprised to be met by Michael, who missed her terribly and has some possible news for her: he’s heard that a few other countries in Europe, like Portugal and Germany, allow people to divorce insane spouses. It’s just an idea at present, but he’s looking into it. And if he moves to Germany, would Edith go with him? She seems floored by the idea and scoots off to Aunt Rosamond’s place before giving any answer.
Nanny shows up at the drawing room with the kids for an afternoon visit. Branson happily embraces his crazy cute toddler and Nanny hands ‘the little prince’ off to Mary, who holds him pretty much the same way you’d expect her to hold a football. That is: awkwardly.
Violet is taking a turn with Isobel, asking her to at least take an interest in little George, if she’s going to take an interest in anything. Isobel worries about driving Mary crazy by interfering, like Mary would even notice. The doorbell rings and Isobel tells Violet that’s Molesley, who’s asked for a meeting. He’s shown in and immediately asks Isobel for his old job back. Violet tries to excuse herself, but he tells her there’s no secret here. He has no job; he needs one. Isobel apologises and tells him she lives very simply and has no need of a butler, but Violet asks where he can be found if they hear of an opening.
Ok, Michael’s either rented an airplane hangar for his party, or his house is MASSIVE. Looks like it’s the latter. Edith’s wearing an amazing red dress and headband. He draws her aside and asks if she’s had any time to think about what he said earlier. She playfully refers to it as them living in sin, but he says it would only be until the divorce. He asks if she loves him and she says she does, more than anything. See, these two have some chemistry. They almost kiss, but then a waiter who should really know better interrupts and asks if there’s any more gin. Edith slips away while Michael directs the man.
Violet arrives at the Molesley manse and tells Old Molesley she wants to borrow his son for a dinner she’s having with Lady Shackleton, whose own butler is retiring. She wants to give Molesley a chance to show what he can do. OM wonders if her own butler, Mr Sprat, will mind but Violet says it’s not his business to mind.
Hughes has reported her interference with Charlie G to Carson who is, quite reasonably, upset that she read his mail and decided to stick her nose in his business. She snappishly tells Carson the man’s ill and in the workhouse. Carson really doesn’t care about his jerky ex-friend, but he doesn’t tell Hughes why he hates the man so much, even though a simple ‘the man’s a thief who shook me down, blackmailed me, nearly got me fired, and humiliated me in front of my employer’ would probably do the trick. But no, God forbid anyone should be somewhat forthcoming here, because that might interfere with the DRAMA!
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, a special delivery has arrived: Edith, that sweet thing, has bought an electric mixer, which delights Daisy and freaks out Patmore, who thinks that this and other new-fangled contraptions will start to replace people like, well, her and Daisy. The footmen come in and Jimmy asks Ivy if she liked her V-day card. Of course, Ivy assumes that means Jimmy sent hers. Daisy reminds her that Jimmy likes to tease. Ivy soldiers on, wondering who sent Daisy’s card, then. Maybe Jimmy, because he likes to tease? One isn’t limited to just one card, you know.
Upstairs, Nanny, carrying an armful of folded laundry, intercepts Thomas and asks him to tell Patmore she doesn’t want scrambled egg for Sybbie’s tea. This woman’s either really determined or doesn’t learn well from past attempts, because if she did, she’d recall that the last time she asked him to pass along a message to Patmore it didn’t go so well. Again, he refuses to do so, and she begs him to do it, because the kids are upstairs on their own. This all seems really contrived to me. First, it looked like she has a nursery maid, and the nursery maid would generally be the one toting laundry and passing along messages to the cook, so she doesn’t need Thomas anyway. Second, even if the nursery maid was MIA, she has a bell in the nursery and can ring for someone to pass the message along. And anyway, it shouldn’t matter, because Thomas is actually in the wrong here. Nannies were really highly regarded in households like this—oftentimes the same one served multiple generations of children. If they asked someone to pass along a message, you passed it along. I don’t really understand his problem with her. Is it just because she asked him not to touch the kid once? That’s her prerogative. Sorry, Thomas. Suck it up. Why’s he being such a dick? Other than the fact that that’s basically his single defining characteristic?
Edith’s back and learning that her trip to The Lady was really for nought, because Rose got three responses from the post office window. She and Cora are going to meet the most promising one in Ripon the next day, because the woman’s looking after her aunt and can’t get away for long.
Branson sidles up to Mary and gently urges her to start rejoining the land of the living, possibly by taking an interest in something. Mary robotically says she’s interested in George, and Branson kind of calls her out on that. ‘I will be,’ she amends. Seriously? I knew this woman would make a terrible mother, but this is kind of special. She asks what he’s been up to and Branson starts to talk a bit of estate business, but Robert cuts him off and tells Mary to just concentrate on feeling better. This from a man who was trying to shove Branson and Sybbie out the door just a few weeks after Sybil’s death.
In the servants’ hall, there’s some talk about who sent whom Valentine’s Day cards. Oh, lord, these cards. This is not interesting drama! Jimmy did not send one to Ivy, he sent one to a former employer, which is a bit cheeky.
Hughes, who just can’t leave it alone, goes to Isobel to ask her to take in Charlie G. Since when is Isobel running some kind of halfway house? Isobel asks why they need to bring him to her house, since he should be Carson’s responsibility, but Hughes judgily says that Carson has turned his back on ‘his old pal.’ She urges Isobel to tap into her old reserves of strength and use it for good.
Branson reports to Carson and asks for his help in a delicate matter: getting Mary out of her rut. She needs to find an interest outside of herself, which would be a highly novel experience for her, wouldn’t it? He thinks that Robert just considers her a silly little woman, so someone else needs to step in here. He asks Carson to give her a little advice, because he’s sure she’ll take it from him, knowing Carson only wants the best for her.
Jimmy decides he’s going to go to the pub that night, because he’s bored. Don’t let Carson hear you say that. Also, I’ve been doing some research into this lately, and no way did anyone working in one of these houses have time to feel bored, no matter how many electrical appliances they got. Speaking of, Daisy gives the mixer a whirl and loves it. Jimmy asks Ivy to come with him to the pub, even though she doesn’t have permission or a night off. Patmore comes in, ending the discussion, and groans over the use of the mixer. We get it, she hates change.
Nanny finds Thomas in one of the sitting rooms, and her face is all business. Of course, he never passed on her message about the egg to Patmore, and his excuse is that he didn’t feel like it. Wrong answer, Thomas. That kind of insolence will get you sacked. Or, at least, it would in any house other than this one. Anyway, he can’t imagine why Sybbie shouldn’t be able to have her egg. Because the person in charge of her care says no? Maybe she’s allergic or they don’t agree with her, Thomas. The point is, it’s not really your place to be questioning this. Nanny says as much and reminds him that he’s a member of staff, and her orders are to be obeyed.
As Cora’s going in to dinner, Thomas pulls her aside and tells her Nanny West has been leaving the children unattended. The hell? God, this man is incredibly petty.
Carson asks for a moment with Mary just before she goes down to dinner, and he wastes no time rather apologetically doing as Branson asked, which does not make Mary happy at all. She pulls rank and reminds him what his place is. She says he doesn’t seem to understand the effect Matthew’s death had on her (oh, believe me, Mary, we all understand) and says she wouldn’t know where to start, as far as managing the estate goes (because you never paid attention!) Carson argues that Branson thinks she could be helpful and she snaps that Branson’s worried that Robert will abandon Matthew’s reforms. That’s a reasonable concern, Mary, considering Robert’s way was running the place into the ground. And if you cared as much about Matthew as you claim (which I can’t help but doubt), then wouldn’t you be at least a little interested in preserving his legacy? No, apparently not, because that would require her to think of someone other than herself for once, and she sucks at that. She tells Carson they’re going to pretend this never happened, and he leaves with as much dignity as he can muster, turning at the last moment and telling her that she’s letting herself be defeated.
At dinner, there’s some chat about the tenant farmers’ luncheon and who’s going to attend. Cora’s got plans, so Robert volunteers Edith to preside. She’s going to London, so Violet puts forth Mary, since her son owns half the estate. Branson seconds the idea, though Robert tells them both not to bother poor wittle Mary. The Wallowing Widow finally snaps, wondering why everyone keeps nagging her, and reminds them all that her husband is dead, like they could have forgotten or that she was the only one who suffered a loss there. ‘Matthew is dead 50 years before his time! Isn’t that enough for me to deal with?’ she pouts, making it all about her, as per usual. She tosses down her napkin and stomps out. Robert scolds everyone for being so insensitive and tells them they all need to step back and let her come through this in her own time. Again, I remind you of how eager he was to tell Branson to get on with his life and get the hell out of his house, and take his damn kid with him. What a hypocrite this man is. Violet disagrees but says they’ll discuss it later, after she’s done enjoying this delicious mousse Daisy made with the dreaded mixer.
Molesley and his dad have a heart-to-heart out in the back garden. Molesley admits he can’t really see what’s in his future and his dad says that’s reasonable, since Molesley kind of had the rug pulled out from under him, with Matthew’s death. Molesley remembers that Matthew was a nice guy (when he wasn’t calling your profession a foolish thing for a grown man to do, right Molesley?) and claims that Matthew raised his standards. Actually, Molesley, I think you raised Matthew’s standards considerably. Molesley goes on to ungratefully call Violet’s friend (and his prospective employer) an old bat, like he’s got offers beating down the door, and his dad tells him to shape the hell up. Thanks, Old Molesley!
Mary’s lying in bed, staring at the ceiling like a sulky teenager when Violet comes in to say goodnight. Mary guesses Violet disapproves of her behaviour and Violet says she doesn’t care, because she’s not a governess, she’s Mary’s grandmother, and she loves her. Mary finally sits up and apologises. Violet tells her she’s had a terrible time, but she really needs to start thinking about her son. Mary knows, but she doesn’t think she’s going to be a very good mother (going to be?) because Matthew’s death seems to have sucked up all the softness he saw in her. She starts to wonder if it was only ever there in his imagination, and I agree with that. Remember how horrible she was to absolutely everyone, for no reason at all, in the last episode? And yet Matthew kept insisting she was a good person? He really did have a massive blind spot with her, didn’t he? Violet tells Mary she has a choice here: Life or death. ‘And you think I should choose life?’ Mary asks hollowly. Uh, yes?
Hughes has taken the news that Charlie G is going to stay with Isobel to Carson, who can’t believe she’s imposing on Mrs Crawley like that. Jesus, Carson, just tell her why you want nothing to do with this man! It’s not complicated! At least just tell her the man’s a thief, which should shut down any further discussions of him living in Isobel’s home! Hughes thinks this’ll help shake Isobel out of her grief.
Upstairs, Robert greets Violet coming down the stairs and tells her she must forgive Mary, because she’s broken and bruised and it’s their job to wrap her up and keep her safe from the world. Shame he didn’t apply those same ideas to his middle daughter when he was actively sabotaging her relationship and then expecting her to just move on after getting cruelly jilted at the altar. What an asshole. Violet objects, saying it’s their job to bring Mary back to the world, and while she can overlook Mary’s poor judgement, she finds it hard to overlook Robert’s (but you’ve had so many years of practice, Violet!). As she continues to the door, she grabs Edith and insists she come to lunch that Friday so she can help her grandmother sell Molesley to Lady S.
Belowstairs, Jimmy races in, grabs Alfred, and drags him outside to help him with Ivy, who’s wasted and vomiting into the garden. Anna meets them as Alfred brings Ivy in and tries to help sober the girl up. Jimmy looks like he feels at least a little guilty and Alfred scolds him for getting her like this. Anna helps her up to bed and Alfred, of course, promises not to say anything.
The next morning, Carson meets Isobel coming down from the nursery. She was turned away by nanny, it seems. Carson brings up Charlie and tells her he doesn’t want her to waste her energy and kindness on someone unworthy of it. And yet he doesn’t tell her what it is about the man he objects to, so of course she continues on her merry way.
Ivy brings snacks into the servants’ hall, and Anna gently asks how she’s feeling. Pretty poorly, not that that’s any surprise. The Bateses giggle about it once Ivy’s gone and Anna observes that they’re all young once. ‘Yes, but you stayed young,’ Bates says cutely.
Rose and Cora are interviewing Edna at a tearoom in Ripon. She tells them she was a housemaid at Downton, but she wanted to move on, so she took a hairdressing course and got a lady’s maid job with an old lady who then died. Cora says she’ll have to talk to Hughes to find out about her, and Edna immediately produces the reference that Hughes wrote for her. Sigh. Cora essentially offers her the job on the spot, which is stupid, and barely notices when Edna gets caught out in the lie about her sick aunt (who doesn’t exist and is the reason they’re having this meeting in Ripon, instead of at Downton).
It’s time for Violet’s lunch, and apparently she hasn’t thought it proper to clue her butler in to why there’s an extra man at the table, which is also stupid. She should at least have given the guy a head’s up, just out of basic courtesy. Of course her butler, Sprat, is a complete prat who thinks Molesley’s out for his job, and poor, bewildered Molesley is now officially out of his depth. I guess every household on this show needs its cartoonish bad guy.
Lunch gets underway, and Violet tries to talk up Molesley, but Sprat keeps screwing him up by nearly getting him to tip over the gravy boat, and then turning up the sterno under a silver dish and handing it to him, burning his hands badly. Molesley swiftly returns it to the sideboard and Lady S observes that he seems very new to this kind of work and it’s awfully nice of Violet to give him a chance to play at it. Poor Molesley.
Charlie shows up at Isobel’s and is shown to a room upstairs. He asks if Carson’s going to come and see him and Hughes promises to tell Carson that Charlie’s arrived. Isobel seems to have gotten a bit of her spark back, so there’s that, at least. And now Hughes can feel all smug about that.
Edith arrives at the Criterion for dinner and HOLY CRAP she looks AMAZING! I have to say that, costume-wise, this has been Edith’s night (at last!). Back at Downton, everyone’s still in dull purples and black (mourning colours), but the times she’s escaped to London she’s looked absolutely hands-down fabulous. Far more glamorous than even Mary ever looked, I have to say. And this dress is the best of the lot—sea-green with a sexy slit skirt and a complicated, embellished bodice. And she’s rocking it like you wouldn’t believe. That, my dear, is what Tom and Lorenzo would call a Werq. Snaps to you. I knew you could do it.
Michael’s waiting for her, and he rightly tells her how amazing she looks. She coyly says she thought she’d make a bit of an effort. As they sit and get their champagne poured, she admits it feels wild to be out with a man, being wined and dined, which would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago. ‘I do love you so,’ he says suddenly. ‘Do you? I’m so glad,’ she replies. He sips his champagne and lays out his big plan: he’s going to become a German citizen so he can divorce his wife and marry Edith. She can’t believe he’d go and join the most hated race in Europe, just for her, and asks if she can kiss him. He obliges, despite the fact they’re in a crowded restaurant. Go, girl!
Cora has broken the news of Edna’s return to Hughes, who tells her this doesn’t seem like a great idea. But she doesn’t say why, because nobody on this show can communicate anything anymore.
In the kitchen, Daisy sits down with Patmore and wonders if Alfred sent her the Valentine’s card. Patmore, who’s as sick of this nonsense as I am, fetches him, as Molesley arrives for a visit and Branson wanders in, looking for Mrs Hughes.
Patmore has made Alfred tell Daisy that he sent the card to Ivy. This seems a bit mean. Why did she have to go and bust up Daisy’s happy little dream like that? Just let her speculate and then let it fizzle out, that’s how these things usually do. But no, she has to wreck the illusion. Alfred apologies and leaves, and Patmore admits that she sent Daisy the card, so she wouldn’t feel left out. Well, that’s kind of sweet. She apologises and Daisy tells her not to be sorry, because she may not have a boyfriend, but at least she has a friend. Aww, bless.
Carson, Branson and Hughes discuss this Edna situation. Branson offers to tell Cora what’s up, but Carson says no, because Cora’s lost a daughter and a son-in-law and he can’t have her thinking that Sybil’s husband was unworthy. Come again? As I recall, this all went down almost a year after Sybil’s death, it’s not like he cheated on her. And it’s not like he did much of anything anyway. A maid threw herself at him, repeatedly, and when she kissed him, he briefly kissed her back. And then felt really, really terrible about it. How does that make him unworthy? Nope, the only thing they can do is step aside and let Edna come and work there and keep an eye on her. Of course, that makes perfect sense. This is absurd. Hughes observes that Edna sounds like a ticking bomb and Branson looks sick. At the thought of more Edna plotlines, I feel sick too.
On her way down to dinner, Cora stops by the nursery and listens in while Nanny cuddles George and tells him not to let ‘that chauffeur’s daughter’ bother him anymore. The woman then turns to Sybil and orders her to go back to sleep, calling her a ‘wicked little crossbreed.’ What the hell? This not only seems incredibly random, it also too neatly ties up the whole tension storyline between her and Thomas, which could have potentially been interesting if it had been built up properly. But it turns out she’s a strange racist? That came out of nowhere. If she felt that strongly about it, why’d she take this job in the first place? Also, this just rewards Thomas’s deviousness and dreadful treatment of others. It really was just dumb luck that he ended up being right about this woman.
Cora bursts in and immediately rings the bell for Mrs Hughes. Nanny stammers that she was just playing a game, but Cora sacks her on the spot. Hughes arrives and Cora tells her to find Nanny a bed for the night and ask one of the maids to sleep with the kids. She’s absolutely adamant that Nanny is not to be left alone with the kids, not even for a moment.
In the sitting room, Mary and Robert discuss Michael. Robert asks if this thing with him and Edith is serious and Mary darkly says he’s good looking and alive, which puts him a couple of steps ahead of most of the men of their generation. Robert asks if she knows anything about him. She doesn’t, but she comments that he chatted a bit with Matthew at Duneagle. The mere mention of Matthew’s name is enough to make her go half catatonic, so Robert tells her to go off to bed. She asks if he wants her at the luncheon the next day and he tells her there’s no need. She says she has some ideas (really?) because she and Matthew used to talk (really? About the estate? Any time he tried to bring it up I seem to recall you changing the subject). Robert tells her again to go to bed and she does. Well, almost. Halfway up, she stops and goes downstairs to apologise to Carson and cry on his shoulder. So, the Wallowing Widow has become the Weeping Widow. Progress?
There’s a crash from the kitchen, and when Hughes goes to investigate she finds Patmore standing over the wreckage of a bowl and some prawn something or other that she tried to mix with the new mixer. Hughes tells her to just let the girls clean it up in the morning (leaving prawns scattered all over the kitchen all night? Ew.) but Patmore freaks, saying she can’t let Daisy know she can’t work this thing, because that means Daisy’s heading into the future and Patmore’s stuck in the past. Oh my God, we GET IT. I think we got it an hour ago, there’s no need to drill it back into our heads. Show, don’t tell. Hughes helps her clean up and the two women talk about how they always hated Nanny West. Ok, whatever.
The next day, Robert runs into Cora, who tells him how much of a debt they owe to Thomas, who just happens to be standing nearby. Cora goes and thanks him personally and Thomas smarms that he just had a hunch Nanny wasn’t quite right. Whatever.
Tenants start their lunch, with Robert and Branson in attendance, and when Mary shows up (trading her usual black for purple—progress!) everyone stands respectfully. Branson happily gives her his seat and takes a place elsewhere and she starts talking to someone about sheep.
Ooof, this was a bit of a mess. There were some good bits, but there was a lot of bad. Bad writing, bad plotting. Can I just watch Edith running around London in fabulous dresses? I care increasingly less about what’s happening at Downton these days, but her I’ll watch. Well, I can only wish, I guess.