Previously on Downton Abbey: Mary and Edith got new boyfriends and Robert’s stomach exploded all over a future prime minister.
Ok, having seen this episode, I have to conclude that either Julian Fellowes completely and utterly doesn’t give a shit about anything at all anymore, or he’s just taking the piss, because this single episode basically broke all the rules of storytelling and delivered up one of the most boring hours of nothingness I’ve ever subjected myself to. Was there tension? No! Were there storylines we cared about? Of course not! Was the plot advanced in any way? Nope! And this unbearable narrative carelessness was signalled early on: I kid you not, the first three scenes are different sets of characters having the exact same conversation. They nearly mirror each other’s words. I’ve seen padding, but this really takes the cake.
Since Fellowes can’t be bothered to write separate scenes that serve any purpose, I can’t be bothered to recap these three separately. Basically, Downton is being opened to the public for a day in order to raise funds for the hospital that none of us care about.
Robert/Carson/Bates/Violet: What’s the point of opening the house? There’s nothing for anyone to see, there are only, like ten or so priceless works of art! Why don’t these poor farmers just take a train to London and visit the Tate for a day? Also, don’t poor people steal?
Tom/Molesley/Isobel: Can we ratchet down the snobbery just a tidge? Turns out the lower orders are fascinated by rich folk.
Daisy: Time for me to babble some nonsense! All the big houses should be open to the public! What gives the homes’ owners the right to keep strangers out?
Carson: Uh, basic laws of property ownership?
Apparently this was all Tom’s and Mary’s idea, which I don’t entirely buy. I believe that Tom would come up with this, but considering how territorial Mary is about Downton, and how little she tends to think about people beneath her who aren’t her servants, I don’t believe she’d be so on board with this.
Oh, and Robert’s back at home, convalescing.
The only difference between these scenes is a teensy bit at the end of the last one, with Violet and Isobel, in which Violet asks Isobel if she’s rethinking her stance on becoming Lady Merton and Isobel very poorly lies that she is not.
Back at Downton, Edith announces that Bertie’s swinging through the neighbourhood soon, so Cora, naturally, suggests Edith invite him for dinner. ‘Is he worth it?’ Mary asks unnecessarily. Sigh. ‘As opposed to your car mechanic?’ Edith slings back. AWESOME! Finally, Edith is starting to call Mary out on her nasty bullshit! YES!
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Finally, Edith is starting to call Mary out on her nasty bullshit! YES![/cryout-pullquote]Turns out Bertie’s coming by the weekend they’re opening the house, and Cora thinks he might have some ‘ideas.’
Daisy hangs a picture of William in uniform at Mr Mason’s house and she and the old man look at it for a little bit. Before Daisy leaves, Mason gives her a note for Mrs Patmore. He explains it’s a thank-you note, for her kindness, and clearly Daisy’s not been raised right, because she thinks thank you notes aren’t necessary. They absolutely are. She tells Mason that he shouldn’t encourage Patmore, because she’s too curious for her own good. What?
Carson brings Robert something to eat, along with a flask of wine. What an excellent thing to give someone who’s just had a chunk of his stomach removed. Robert, thankfully, has enough sense to turn that down. As Robert digs in, he tells Carson they really need to get on with simplifying the household, because reasons (seriously, there doesn’t seem to be any actual reason for this, which makes it annoying and stupid). He asks Carson if there’s anything they can do to hurry Thomas out the door and Carson promises to have a word. Robert asks Carson how he feels about opening the house up and Carson admits he thinks it’s a poor idea. Robert agrees that it’s dumb, because what will they show them, Violet knitting and Mary in the bath? Carson’s face perfectly conveys, ‘woah, CREEPY!’ and Robert clearly realises that last line was about eight steps too far.
That evening, Patmore finds her note from Mason in the rubbish bin. Opened. Daisy, you asshole.
Cora asks Baxter whatever happened to Coyle and hears he got ten years. And that’s it on that matter. She goes to climb into bed and Robert says they should really have his mother over. Apparently she’s been steering clear lately, or something.
Anna’s not feeling terribly well and Bates urges her to tell Mary and then Dr Ryder. It’s so creepy that everyone’s first instinct here is to notify Mary, instead of just going to a medical professional like a normal person. Anna doesn’t want to spend the money on Ryder, but Bates wants her to have the best.
As the Carsons leave their cottage, the Mr says he’d like to have breakfast at the cottage sometimes, pompously ordering his wife to go learn to make coffee from Mrs Patmore. Can you not make coffee, Carson? You seem to know a great deal about it. He continues being an insufferable douche, saying they should have one of the hallboys to clean their silver, and one of the maids come and make the bed. Hold up here, they still have hallboys? Why aren’t they facing the axe, especially since it appears they have so little to do they can be diverted to silver-polishing duties at the Carsons’?
Anna brings Mary her breakfast tray and the news that she’s not feeling terribly well. Mary’s happy to have an excuse to go to London.
Isobel summons Cora to Crawley House, where Clarkson announces they are officially being taken over by the York hospital. He’s going to remain in his post at the village hospital, Isobel will remain almoner, and they want Cora to be president in place of Violet. Isobel points out that they couldn’t exactly keep on someone who fought against this the whole time. Also, Violet’s getting up there in years and they probably want someone in the post who’s likely to be around for a while. Clarkson also wants the new president to be more involved in the logistics of running the hospital, which Violet would never do. I’ll admit, this is a plot I can kind of get into, because I remember how interesting Cora became during the war years, when she was running the Downton Hospital and doing such a good job with it. It was pretty much the only time this entire show I was into that character. This could be good for her.
Tom comes in as Mary’s making arrangements to be a ‘surprise guest’ at dinner with Evelyn Napier and Henry. Edith overhears the conversation and pleasantly remarks that she and Michael used to go to that restaurant. ‘Do you have to put a damper on everything?’ Mary snaps. I can’t even with this dreadful harpy anymore. I just want her to break her neck or for Edith to just punch her in the face and they keep kicking until she’s dead. Seriously, I hate her. She is hateful. Edith restrains herself and sends her love to Evelyn. Tom teases Mary a little and Mary suggests he come along, because why have two men drooling over her at dinner when she can have three? For no real reason, Tom readily agrees. ‘Edith, you can manage without us for a day, can’t you?’ Mary asks, as if Edith needs them for anything, ever. ‘I can manage without you for as long as you want,’ Edith fantastically replies. Mary rolls her eyes, like Edith’s being so unreasonable, and as she leaves Tom suggests Edith come with them (yeah, right) and asks if she can’t be pleased for Mary. Excuse me, Tom? Why aren’t you asking Mary why she can’t be happy for Edith? Why does the bitch get off the hook here? ‘I’m as pleased for her as she would be for me,’ says Edith. Man, she is really knocking them out of the park this episode, isn’t she? Apparently Violet is her grandmother after all!
Upstairs, Mary comes across Thomas giving George a piggyback ride. George explains that he was cheering Thomas up. Mary tells George to let Thomas get on with his work, then goes in to see her dad. She asks why Barrow’s so down in the mouth these days and Robert explains that they’re basically trying to shove him out the door.
As Mary heads out, she reassures Bates that she’s sure everything with Anna will be fine. Bates firmly tells her he wants the bill sent to him. Mary smilingly agrees, but as soon as she’s in the car, she tells Anna and Tom that she won’t let Bates pay the bill.
Tom: Hey, maybe consider respecting the man’s wishes, eh? This is not about you!
Carson has Thomas in his office and tells him that, basically, he has to get lost. Hughes comes in and Thomas briskly excuses himself. Carson tells his wife he’d like to have dinner at the cottage that night, so she should get along to Patmore. Because he’s got his head way too firmly shoved up his own ass, he completely fails to notice his wife’s clipped tones and irritable demeanour.
Molesley goes to the school to finalise the arrangements for Daisy’s exams. The schoolmaster notes that Molesley’s been really helpful in all this and suggests Molesley might be able to help out at the school, if he agrees to sit a general knowledge test. Molesley gapes.
Violet goes to see Robert and immediately starts in about the open house. She’s told it’s all been fixed, so she consigns herself to it and asks if she should be there to cut a ribbon at the front door or something, in her capacity as president. Robert and Cora hastily reassure her that’s not necessary. Violet preens and says she’s sure that a lot of people’s minds will probably be changed by Robert’s collapse and the fact that he was saved at Downton’s hospital. Uh, hasn’t anyone notified her, the president of the hospital, that the merger is going ahead? Seems like she’d be amongst the first to know.
Up at the house, the servants talk about things we totally already know: the Carsons are having dinner, and Molesley’s sitting a test. Andy confirms plans with Thomas to have a lesson that evening, but Patmore only overhears that they’re meeting in Thomas’s room that night.
Anna returns a bit late from her appointment to Mary saying she thought she might actually have to dress herself. Heaven forfend! Anna’s fine, just some ligament pain. Mary stupidly says that she doesn’t think ligaments were invented when she was having George. No, Mary, they existed, it’s just that, unlike Anna, you could just sit around on your ass all day while you were pregnant, instead of running up and down stairs and going to sleep and waking up in a potentially draughty cottage. Mary randomly brings up Marigold and Anna starts to say something she shouldn’t, which confuses me a little bit, because last week it genuinely seemed like she didn’t know the truth about Marigold, but here she seems to know what the deal is. Does she know for real, or did she just figure it out because she actually has a somewhat functional brain?
Cora and Robert talk about her taking on the president post, which she really wants to accept. Robert thinks it’ll be too much for Cora, because he apparently has no faith in her abilities at all and doesn’t at all remember her time running the hospital. I guess she doesn’t remember that either, because she doesn’t bring it up, even though that’s perfect ammunition here. She seems a little hurt that he’s not supporting her 100%. He never did think much of her. That, at least, is consistent with his character.
Mary and Tom arrive at dinner to find that Evelyn has invited Henry, some other guy, and three ladies Mary knows. Ha! Evelyn totally knew what Mary was trying to do here, and I applaud him for thwarting her. Mary takes her seat and comments on how everyone at the table’s single. One of the ladies says that’s only because they’re war widows. ‘I’m not a war widow,’ Mary says shortly, and I’m not sure why (maybe it’s because of my dislike for the character) but I found that truly unnecessarily bitchy. And it looks like at least one of the other ladies at the table did too, judging from the ‘catch you, princess!’ side-eye she shoots Mary. That was just such a strange thing to say, like she couldn’t bear to be classed with these other women in any way at all. Small talk ensues. Henry’s driving his new car at Brooklands and invites both Tom and Mary. Mary’s like, ‘eh, I can’t be bothered to confirm that now, ask me later.’
Carson sits on his ass while Hughes, who has put in a full day of work, puts together dinner. She serves smoked salmon but forgets the lemon. He suggests some horseradish, but they have none, so now he doesn’t want to eat it, because he’s a giant baby. He’s also decided that because Robert isn’t drinking, they don’t get to have wine either. And because he’s not eating the salmon, Hughes has to put her plate aside as well. I know sexual politics were different in the 20’s, but Jesus, he isn’t the queen, others don’t have to take their cues to eat from him! And Hughes, for heaven’s sake, you’re typically a very forthright woman who does not put up with shit from others. Call him out on this! She goes to fetch the duck. ‘Is the skin crispy like Mrs Patmore does it?’ he asks. Ugh.
The London crew is getting ready to leave. Henry suggests walking Tom and Mary home, since it’s a nice night, and Tom, off a look from Mary, says he’d rather take a taxi. Mary gives Evelyn a rather sisterly peck on the cheek and he gets a look on his face that seems to say, ‘Thanks for using me, as usual. What did I see in you, again?’
On her way home, Mary tells Henry about how Matthew died. Henry knows, which makes him seem like kind of a dick for pushing this racing thing at her so much. ‘The car is your enemy, but it’s my friend,’ he says, thus winning the clunker line of the evening award. Also, the costume department has put him in a hat so unflattering and ridiculous looking that it confused and distracted me until I realised these two had stepped right into a terrible 1950s musical comedy or something, a fact that becomes clear when the heavens open up out of nowhere and it begins absolutely pouring rain. Instead of treating us to a delightful little dance interlude, these two take shelter nearby and he kisses her. She asks if this is part of his plan to get her to Brooklands. He says she doesn’t have to, but he’d like it if she were there. He admits that he’s not got great prospects whereas she is a great catch (I’m assuming it’s because she’s rich, because it sure as hell isn’t her personality). He tells her he’s falling in love with her. Why? You’ve met up a couple of times and all she’s done is tell you how much the one thing that means anything to you bores her. Again and again and again.
Mary gets home and joins Tom in the sitting room, asking why Tom’s trying to set her up with Henry. Is he? All he did was take your cue to let you and Henry have alone time. He didn’t arrange the dinner or trip to London or anything. Anyway, Tom thinks Henry’s cool, so he’s fine with setting Mary up with him or whatever. Tom also likes Bertie, though of course Mary thinks he’s terribly boring. Well, nobody’s asking you to hang around with him, Mary. He’s not your boyfriend. Just be polite, I know it’s hard for you, but try. (And let’s be honest, Henry’s not exactly that interesting. Nobody Mary’s dated has ever been particularly interesting). Mary sniffs that Edith was stupid for saddling herself with Marigold, because surely now no man would want to take her on. You’ve got a kid and people seem to want to take you on, Mary.
Edith collects Bertie, who’s been walking from the station to the house. He greets her with a sweet kiss and she comments that it felt rather nice and automatic. She means that in a good way. It’s natural, she means it felt natural. She needs to work on her words if she’s going to be an editor.
Merton brings a guest to visit Isobel: Larry’s finacee, Miss Cruikshank. She seems a rather sweet girl and knows that Isobel and Larry have a chequered past, to say the least, but she really wanted to meet Isobel. Hmm. Isobel is understandably restrained, but Miss C reassures her that not everyone feels the way Larry does towards Isobel. They chat a little bit about the hospital saga: Violet still doesn’t knjow what’s going on, and Merton points out that this is a really poor idea, because they’re all going to look terrible when it comes to light and she realises they’ve all been lying to her.
Up at the house, there’s talk in the kitchen about Daisy’s and Molesley’s exams, and when Patmore suggests she and Mason look in on the testees on the day, Daisy gets all shrill with Patmore for not leaving Mason alone. Hughes chides her for being so ungracious. Really, what’s Daisy’s problem here? Since when is she so possessive of Mason? Patmore will not be put off.
Bertie and Edith meet up in the hallway on the way down to dinner and Edith says she wants to poke her head into the night nursery first. He asks to come along, because he’s kind of perfect, and she shows him the sleeping kids, finishing with Marigold. Bertie comments that this is a lovely place to grow up.
Mason comes by the kitchen with a basket of beautiful vegetables form his garden as a thank-you for Patmore. Daisy gets really nasty, telling Mason that was a stupid thing to do, because their kitchen gardens are huge and they just don’t need this, but he probably needs it. Poor Mason looks a bit downcast while Patmore and Hughes are completely aghast. Honestly, what is Daisy’s problem? Patmore quickly hops in and thanks Mason for the sweet gift, telling him she’ll make wonderful things with this.
At dinner, Bertie suggests they station a servant in each of the rooms the public will be in to keep an eye on things.
Mary: Seriously! Because the poors steal, you know!
See? See what I mean when I said earlier I didn’t quite buy that she would be into this idea? She clearly doesn’t want these people traipsing around Downton! Bertie also suggests roping off the stairs and assigning guides. They all stare at him cluelessly, and I find it very difficult to believe they haven’t thought about this at all before now, but then again, these people are kind of idiotic, so maybe it’s not so outrageous after all. Bertie tells them they should all be guides for small groups of people, to keep everyone moving. He asks who knows the history of the house and Edith says that falls to their librarian, who’s away.
Woah, whoah, hold up: Downton still has that librarian? Robert’s talking about needing to make cutbacks, but the librarian isn’t on the chopping block? The librarian who never seems to be around when he’s needed? The hell? What private home needs a librarian, ever?
Bertie takes charge and tells Mary, Edith, and Cora they’ll have to be tour guides, and Mary looks positively affronted by the idea that she needs to do something. Even Edith seems fairly unenthused.
Belowstairs, Carson issues orders for the following day. The only thing of note is that he tells Daisy to look respectable. You should tell her to make sure she acts respectable, Carson, because she’s been failing at that since episode one.
On their way up to bed, Tom asks Mary if she’ll be going to Brooklands. She says she won’t enjoy it at all, but she does want to see Henry again, or something. She gets all bizarrely bug-eyed and starts babbling about giving cars another chance. Is she on something?
Cora reports to Robert that Bertie seems nice and actually competent. Robert grouses about his prospects not being great and Cora, a little cruelly, asks what Edith’s prospects are? Robert reminds his wife that Edith runs a magazine, and he thinks she could be one of the interesting women of the day. Nice to see someone in this family give Edith a bit of credit for a change. Of course he then ruins it by saying they probably shouldn’t encourage this romance. Why is it that every time Edith gets a boyfriend Robert pouts and decides they shouldn’t encourage it? It’s so incredibly cruel how little he seems to want to see his own daughter happy.
Carson spots Andy leaving Thomas’s room and asks what he was up to. Andy lies that he was borrowing a book, but oh look—he must have left it in Thomas’s room, and he’ll just get it in the morning! Good night!
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Cora’s so stupid she didn’t even realise the place is called Downton Abbey because it actually used to be an abbey[/cryout-pullquote]The household prepares for the open house (love that Thomas ropes off the stairs with velvet ropes they just happened to have on hand) and the locals queue to get in while Bertie gets people organised. Inside, Cora, Mary, and Edith are proving their collective incompetence by knowing absolutely nothing about the house in which they live. Cora’s so stupid she didn’t even realise the place is called Downton Abbey because it actually used to be an abbey. Good lord, Jeremy Corbyn must be loving this show for highlighting what a pointless lot these rich people are. Apparently Molesley knows a bit about the house’s history and tries to speak up, but then he restrains himself and lets Cora continue looking like a fool.
In the middle of all this, Violet comes bustling in, who demands to know where Cora is. She has clearly gotten the news about the hospital. She finds Cora and demands to know if Cora knew she was being replaced the last time Violet was at the house. Cora’s silence is the answer. The crowd of onlookers are clearly feeling like they got their money’s worth here.
Molesley rushes downstairs to tell Baxter, but she’s too distracted by a letter she’s received from the evil Coyle, who inexplicably wants her to visit him in prison. Molesley tells her to ignore the letter if it upsets her so much, but she’s torn for whatever reason.
Upstairs, Violet shrieks at Robert for his wife conniving at her humiliation. Robert tells her to take it down about eighty notches and be logical. ‘I am sick and tired of logic,’ says the woman who hasn’t applied logic to this situation even once these past several weeks. She whirls out and some village kid comes in and asks what her deal is. Robert tells him mums sometimes just get worked up. The kid agrees and asks why Robert lives in such a big house, when surely he has the money to afford someplace nice and comfy? Robert shrugs and tells the boy you tend to like what you’re used to. Molesley comes in and is startled to find the child there. The boy dashes out and Molesley asks if they should pursue him and shake out his pockets. Why does everyone in this place think the locals are all thieves? I mean, Molesley especially, having been raised in the village and still having a father who lives there, should have a more charitable view of his neighbours, don’t you think?
Hey, remember how Patmore bought a house and was going to somehow run it remotely as an early Air BnB? Me neither! But there it is. The house is done, and it even has a telephone. Are you excited? I’m so excited. Carson comes in and Patmore pulls him aside and says she’s a little worried about Andy, because he might be getting…corrupted or something by Thomas.
Merton brings Miss C by the Abbey and introduces her to Violet, who’s startled to hear that Larry’s managed to find an actual thinking, feeling human willing to spend her life with him. Miss C smilingly says that there’s been a misunderstanding and Larry doesn’t hate Isobel. Man, has this girl been given a whitewashed version of events or what? Bizarrely, Merton just stands by, not arguing with this point in the least. Mrs C says that she’s Isobel’s friend and neither she nor Larry will stand in Isobel’s way. Wow, isn’t this absurdly convenient? Because God forbid we spend some precious narrative time working through a difficulty in a realistic way. Nah, we’ll just have endless scenes of people saying the same thing again and again and toss in a deus ex fiancee when we need one.
Violet doesn’t really care just now. She continues on to her car as Cora comes running out, asking to speak to her. Violet refuses to have a word and leaves.
At the end of the day, Molesley asks Baxter what she plans to do about Coyle. She isn’t sure. Thomas and Carson comes in and Carson says he wants a word with Thomas. The others leave and Carson asks what’s up with him and Andy. Isn’t this something Carson would do in his office, instead of the servants’ hall? Yes, yes it is. Thomas swears nothing happened, but Carson doesn’t believe him, because Carson’s always had it in for Thomas, especially when he heard he was gay. Thomas is rather indignant that his word is no good, despite his years of loyal service. Tricky. On the one hand, he has a history of being really dishonest (remember the stealing?) and he did sexually assault a co-worker. But a lot of that is in the far past and he’s been ok since then (and the assault was based on a misunderstanding anyway). So, I guess I feel like this is actually fairly lousy of Carson, who has long since exhausted any reserves of respect I once had for him. He’s just an unpleasant creature now.
Apparently they cleared quite a lot from the sale of tickets, which prompts Tom to suggest they start doing this on the regular. And hey, why not add a tearoom and a safari park while you’re at it? The others aren’t quite so eager to turn Downton into a tourist attraction just yet (and, honestly, that’s something that nobody was doing until after the war). Edith thinks it’s a bit sad that people are curious about their way of life because that means their way of life is something strange. Uh, Edith, your way of life is something strange to the average person, and you of all people in this room would be well aware of that, considering you’re far more plugged into the wider world than the rest of them. Fellowes just doesn’t know how to keep this character consistent at all, does he?
‘Trust you to cast a pall of doom over our successful day,’ Mary snits. Huh? Happily, Bertie gives her a ‘WTF is your problem, lady?’ look . I really love that people are finally starting to notice and even call Mary out on her nastiness.
Robert tells the others about the boy he met earlier and how he suggested they move somewhere more comfortable. Mary, true to form, refuses to listen, because Downton is where the Crawleys belong and they aren’t going anywhere.
Downstairs, Thomas sits in the empty servants’ hall, weeping. It’s a bit unlike him to appear so vulnerable in public—he’s the type to repair to his room or something. But fine, whatever.