Downton Abbey: That’s Not Cricket

Previously on Downton Abbey: Ethel caused a scandal by existing, things got super awkward between Thomas and Jimmy, Edith became a journalist, and Tom was given a job he was wildly underqualified for.

Molesley and his dad watch a cricket pitch get dressed up for an upcoming match. Dad asks how Robert’s looking forward to the match and Molesley reassures him Robert’s very excited indeed. Apparently the match is between the villagers and a team from the house.

Up at said house, Carson is telling Thomas to hit the road and make way for Bates. He goes on to say, in the most offensive way possible, that this isn’t Thomas’s fault, it’s just that nature twisted him into something foul. Nice. He suggests Thomas resign quietly and Carson will write him a reference. Well, that’s actually fairly generous, considering the time, the circumstances, and Thomas’s history in this house. Before he leaves, Thomas tells Carson he’s not foul, just because he’s different from Carson.

Out in the hallway, Carson catches O’Brien and tells her to stop eavesdropping.

Upstairs, Cora asks Robert how the cricket team’s coming along. He says it’s fine, because at least they still have Thomas on it. Edith asks if he’ll be leaving soon, but Robert wants him to stay until the match. There’s some talk about this village/house rivalry, and apparently the house makes a rather poor show, because the village almost always wins. Robert notes that Mary seems a million miles away and asks her what she was up to in London that’s worn her out so much. She shakes herself awake and exchanges a meaningful glance with her mother.

Belowstairs, O’Brien tells Jimmy that Thomas has been given the heave-ho and if Jimmy wants to register his rage, now’s the time to do it. I think he’s done enough, O’Brien. Jimmy thinks so too, but she warns him that, if he isn’t seen to be protesting enough over this whole affair, people might get the idea he actually liked it.

Matthew finds Anna loitering in the hallway upstairs and asks what she’s up to. She tells him Cora’s in with Mary, so he goes to see what’s up. He walks in on Cora reassuring Mary she’s in good hands with Dr. Ryder. What’s this now—Cora suddenly speaking up for a London doctor? Has she forgotten all her protests over Sybil’s care or just lost faith in Clarkson completely? Cora departs to dress and Matthew asks what they were talking about. “Women’s stuff,” says Mary vaguely. Although that’s definitely an answer that’ll stop almost any husband from asking further questions. She changes the subject to the cricket match, which I guess Matthew will be playing in, though he’s not very enthusiastic after the thrashing they received the year before. Matthew comments that Bates must be happy to be out of it and Anna says he’d probably be happy to walk normally again, even if cricket was the price he had to pay. Matthew’s mortified, but she was only jesting with him.

Belowstairs, Molesley’s boring Patmore and everyone else with his tales of cricket and how seriously his father takes it. Daisy asks him why he never played in the match before and he says he didn’t work at the house before then and he wasn’t good enough for the village team.

Mary and Matthew find Edith in the drawing room finishing her latest column—subject: how tragic it is that former soldiers are now reduced to begging on the streets and officers have to take jobs as dance partners in clubs. England did have a serious problem finding employment for ex-servicemen after World War I. Matthew jokes that even a crappy club is an improvement over the trenches and Edith scolds him for making fun of them. He can’t seem to keep his foot out of his mouth tonight, can he? Mary snidely says that Edith forgets that Matthew was in the trenches and she wasn’t. Doesn’t matter, Mary, the point is that Matthew came back to a seriously cushy life of inherited wealth and privilege while others didn’t have that same opportunity and he really shouldn’t be making light of their situation. But then, we can hardly expect her to understand the concept of empathy.

Cora, Isobel, and Violet come in discussing someone named Rose who’s 18 years old now. Apparently Rose is coming to stay with Violet, her great aunt, because she hates London. An 18-year-old rich girl who hates London? You guys actually believe that?

Robert, meanwhile, is trying to force Branson to join the cricket team, but Tom refuses because he’s never played in his life. Robert tries bullying and Cora tells him to lay off.

O’Brien catches Jimmy as he’s taking up the fish and tells him Carson’s considering letting Thomas off after all. The hell? What’s this woman’s game? She’s just starting to seem pretty unbalanced at this point. The rift between her and Thomas never made much sense anyway, but now she’s just being needlessly spiteful. Thomas has already lost his job, what more does she want? She wants Jimmy to tell Carson he won’t tolerate Thomas’s behaviour. She tells him to tell Carson to give Thomas a bad reference or Jimmy will go to the police. Bates takes all this in from the servants’ dining room.

After dinner, Robert offers to have Rose stay at Downton, but Violet’s too excited to have her to let her go. Isobel doesn’t feel like she could face an 18-year-old but Violet says there’s not much to them, really.

Robert’s getting ready for bed, with Bates glowering nearby. Robert observes that Bates will be back on duty the next day, and then he turns and thanks Thomas for all his help before leaving the dressing room for bed. Thomas spits, “to the victor the spoils,” at Bates, who asks what Thomas will do next. Thomas angrily asks him why he cares and Bates says he doesn’t.

Matthew discusses estate business with Mary, and it’s both sweet and sad that he actually keeps hoping she’ll start giving a shit. He thinks, somehow, that taking part in the cricket game will show Robert that Matthew doesn’t intend to do away with all their traditions. He wants Mary to help persuade him as well. Hasn’t Robert been pretty well browbeaten into submission at this point? Just move forward, leave him behind, if he can’t catch up at this point, that’s pretty much his problem. As I said in the last recap, the man’s a cartoonish relic. Matthew starts to make out with his wife, but she puts the brakes on and tells him this will stop with kissing for the night, because London seems to have tired her out.  Matthew doesn’t seem pleased.

Jimmy pokes his head into the silver cupboard and confirms with Carson that Thomas is leaving. He lets himself in and asks—well, demands, really—that Carson write a lousy reference, because he thinks it’s wrong to send Thomas off to work in innocent people’s houses. Carson indignantly says he plans to write the reference Thomas deserves. So, you’ll be mentioning the thieving and the backstabbing and the terrible atmosphere he brings to the group? Jimmy says he’s been thinking of going to the police, and the idea of scandal gets Carson’s attention. Jimmy refuses to turn a blind eye to sin and leaves Carson with that. What a tool.

Violet and a rather lovely young lady arrive at Crawley House, where Isobel offers them coffee (in the middle of the day, Isobel? I thought coffee was typically an after-dinner drink in these classes at this time). Rose refuses, because her mommy says she’s not allowed to have coffee. Isobel asks after Roses’ parents, and when Rose says her father works harder than a slave, Isobel’s smile tightens and she snips that she doubts he works harder than a slave. Man, she’s a terrible hostess. Violet explains that Isobel is very literal. Ethel comes in with coffee and leaves, and once she’s gone, Violet hands over the first responses to the ad for Ethel’s services. Isobel’s still not on board with this and shortly explains what’s going on to Rose, who must be feeling really uncomfortable with these two ladies right now. Why did Violet bring her here?

Carson breaks the news to Thomas that he’ll have to leave without a reference. Thomas freaks out, as he should, and threatens to tell Robert, but to do so, he’ll have to tell him the whole story. Thomas realises Jimmy’s been put up to this, but it doesn’t really matter now. Thomas asks for permission to stay a day or two so he can get himself sorted out. Carson, who is clearly pretty torn up about this, says that’s fine.

Bates and Anna check out their new cottage, which does not appear to be in the best shape. He bitches about it, she brightsides. Story of their relationship. He gets flirty, because her happiness is infectious, and kisses her until they both tumble over onto the dusty sofa.

Rose is at family dinner and everyone’s discussing what there is for her to do while she’s there. Robert suggests Edith take her to a nearby market but Edith has to go to London to meet her editor. Rose eagerly asks to get along, which confuses Violet, because Rose’s mother told her she hated London. And you believed her? Rose clearly lies that she’s planning a surprise for her mother and she needs to go to London to finish it. The only person who seems to believe her is Robert, of course. Edith tolerantly says she can tag along if she wants.

After dinner, Matthew sidles up to Edith and tells her he’s thinking of accompanying her to London as well. She says Rosamond would be happy to have him, and anyway, she’s pretty sure she’ll need some help controlling Rose. Good instincts, Edith.

Branson is quietly sharing some plans with Cora to farm 1/3 of the estate directly, which presumably is quite a lot. He needs her to get on their side with this plan, because Robert will be against it. Robert would be against Matthew and Tom saying the sky is blue, methinks. Mary joins them and asks if he’s drawing up battle lines. Cora expresses sympathy for her husband, who’s adjusting terribly to the post-war world. Well, there’s trouble adjusting to the changes brought about by the war, and then there’s trouble adjusting to any change whatsoever, even when it’s in the best interests of yourself, your family, and the estate you claim to care so much about. I have little sympathy for Robert’s issues with the latter.

Mary asks Tom how his new house looks (he’s going to move into the estate agent’s cottage) and he says it’s lovely, just rather empty of furniture at the moment. Mary says they can probably find some stuff to give him up in the attic and Cora worries about Sybil Jr., all alone with just her nanny and daddy for company. Tom firmly says this is what’s best for both of them. I agree. I wouldn’t want to stay under the roof of a hostile in-law like Robert for long either.

Hughes finds Thomas outside, crouched over and weeping. She says she knows he’s leaving, but things can’t be all bad, because he’s trained well enough to apply for a position as a butler. He says she doesn’t know everything and she kindly invites him to tell her everything. He blubbers that he thinks it’ll shock and disgust her. “Well, now I have to hear it,” she says gently, leading him back inside. Aww, Hughes is awesome.

Isobel finally tells Ethel about Violet’s little plot and hands over the replies. Isobel tells Ethel that, if she goes, she’ll have references from both Isobel and Mrs. Hughes and won’t ever have to refer to her previous life.

Edith arrives at Mary’s room for a little pre-dinner heart-to-heart. Remember how all the sisters used to gather in Mary’s in series one? Ahh, the good old days. There’s some talk about a new maid that nobody likes, but the real thing Mary wants to know is what train Edith and Matthew will be returning from London on. Mary asks Edith to promise not to let Matthew catch an earlier train but Edith doesn’t see how she’d manage that. Mary asks her to do what she can and Edith agrees, wondering why everything has to be so complicated. Why isn’t she asking for more information here? Any normal person would. She’s not curious why Mary’s so keen to keep her husband away for a certain period of time?

Downstairs, Robert’s trying to get Tom to tell him what these mysterious plans are, but Tom says Matthew will fill him in. Robert assumes the plans will be ghastly and starts drinking immediately.

Hughes sits down for a drink of her own with Carson and tells him he can’t let Jimmy blackmail him. Here’s an idea—why not just tell Jimmy Thomas was sent away without a reference and then post one to Thomas once he’s gone? How would Jimmy ever know? Apparently that has not occurred to anyone. Carson says he’s sorry Hughes had to hear of such filthy goings-on but she tells him Thomas isn’t the first below-stairs queen she’s come across. Also, she thinks Jimmy may have led him on, though not really intentionally. She won’t sit by and see that young whippersnapper ruin a man’s life, not when that man was wounded in service of king and country. Carson reminds her that homosexuality is illegal and, if they stand up to Jimmy and he goes to the police, Thomas will wind up in prison. She thinks about that.

Bates walks around his new cottage, taking a look, and out of the shadows comes Thomas, smoking and looking creepy as all hell. He eyes Bates for a bit and tells him he envies him, because everyone just loves him and Thomas can’t imagine what that’s like. Bates suggests he try not being a dick all the time and Thomas says that being nice got him into trouble. Well, maybe just start with a smile and ‘good morning’ to start with, eh, Thomas? He says he’ll be gone soon enough, and Bates will surely be glad of that. Bates says he’s right about that.

Carson’s trying to finalise the cricket team. Ivy notes that Thomas isn’t on the list and Thomas tightly says he’ll be gone by then. “Yes, you will,” Jimmy says quickly, which is really unnecessary, as is O’Brien’s totally smug smile. Bates notices it.

Robert asks Cora where Mary is and learns she’s away for the night but will be back the next day. He asks if things are ok between Mary and Mathew and she says they’re fine, why  do you ask? He says there’s some impatience over getting the succession settled and she reminds him it’s early yet. Carson announces lunch and brings Robert up to date with the team. They’re one short—two, actually, because Branson won’t play. Carson can’t believe it.

Rosamond greets her guests and asks that they all have dinner together and have a good family gossip. Everyone splits up and Rose steals into the drawing room, picks up the phone, and requests a line.

Ethel reports to Isobel that she’s gone through the letters and doesn’t think there’s a place where she’d be happier than she is at present. There was a nice letter from one lady, but her home is rather close to where the Bryants live. So, Ethel will be staying. She apologises for causing tension between Violet and Isobel and Isobel tells her not to worry about it, because with Ethel gone they would have just found something else to fight over.

Edith meets with the editor, who tells her she looks very pretty before they get down to business. He observes that her subject is unusual for a women’s column, and he likes it. He wants her to take on more ‘men’s issues’. She agrees to keep at it. He tries to ask her out to dinner but she tells him she’s spoken for that night. He’s disappointed and asks her to let him know when she’s in London again.

Anna and Bates paint their cottage and he admits that there’s something strange about all this fuss with Thomas. She asks him why he’s even bothering over it and he says he feels strange taking his job. “You haven’t taken his job,” Anna says. Uh, yes, actually, he did, Anna. Bates plans to ask Mrs. Hughes what’s happening, because she usually knows.

Rose is all dolled up and catching a taxi, looking around furtively as she climbs in.

Hughes tells Bates all and is surprised to hear that Carson didn’t seem to know what everyone else did. Hughes says it’s not that he didn’t know, it’s just that it wasn’t quite so hard to overlook before, but now it’s out for all to see. Nobody seems sure what to do, not even Bates, who can’t believe he’s feeling sorry for Thomas.

Rosamond, Edith, and Matthew have started dinner in Rose’s absence. Edith blames herself for letting Rose out of her sight, but Matthew tells her she had other things to do. Rosamond enthusiastically asks how Edith got on with her editor—good to know someone else in this family is excited for her—and Edith says it went quite well. She asks  Matthew how his day was and he replies that he was just running errands; his big task is the following day.

There’s some disturbance in the hall and the butler shows in the cabbie who picked up Rose earlier. Apparently she left her scarf in the cab. At the butler’s prodding, the cabbie tells them where Rose went: first she picked up a ‘friend’ (and was inside for a good two hours, leaving the cabbie waiting) and then they went to a club.

The club is a jazz club, of course, where bright young things like Rose dance scandalously and make out with each other on the dance floor. Matthew steps in, accompanied by Edith and Rosamond and decide it’s like something out of Dante’s Inferno. They spot Rose and steam over to scare the life out of her. Rosamond introduces herself to Rose’s date and date calls for some more champagne glasses. They all sit and Rosamond asks date, Terrence, where his wife is. Because he’s an idiot, he immediately answers that she’s in the country. Rose tries to cover by saying he worked with her father and is a family friend. Edith chimes in that Rose’s dad will be pleased to hear about this, then. Rose begs her not to say anything. Matthew suggests he and Rose dance and roughly grabs her arm and drags her off to the dance floor. There, he tells her he can keep Rosamond and Edith quiet as long as Rose leaves with them immediately and promises not to have any more to do with this man. She tries to explain that his wife is awful and he’s unhappy, blah, blah, blah and Matthew tells her that’s the same line every married man who wants to sleep around uses. She thinks he wants to marry her as soon as he gets a divorce, but Matthew tells her that’s never going to happen. Matthew steers Rose off the dance floor, collects the other ladies, and off they go.

Isobel, Violet, and Cora are having tea and Violet’s saying she’s happy Rose is staying, but it has reminded her how endless parenting can seem. Isobel’s surprised to hear that Violet was a hands-on mom, because she always imagined her spending just an hour with her kids after tea. “Yes, but it was an hour every day,” says Violet. Yes, how exhausting that must have been.

Carson’s catching Bates up on all the happenings with Matthew’s miraculous inheritance when a rather subdued Jimmy appears and asks for a word. He asks when Thomas is leaving, because he finds all this very awkward. Bates tightly tells Jimmy that Thomas made a mistake, but Jimmy’s still in one piece, so why does he have to go being such a baby about it? Jimmy says he won’t be changing his mind and leaves. Well, that was pointless. Bates turns to Carson and tells him it’s clear who put Jimmy up to this.

Jimmy pouts his way back to the servants hall and complains about Bates sticking up for Thomas. Ivy, who’s folding napkins, says she doesn’t think it’s right for Thomas to be turned away without a reference. Jimmy damn near bites her head off and tells her she knows nothing about it before stomping off again. Poor Ivy wonders what she said wrong but nobody’s talking. O’Brien just warns her to stay out of it.

Isobel and Violet drive home and discuss Ethel. Isobel tells her Ethel’s staying, because the only place that sounded ok was too close to the Bryants’, and though Ethel might have wanted a chance to see little Charlie from time to time, if the Bryants found out she was near, it could cause problems.

Matthew has gone to see a fertility specialist, who promises to write when he gets the results but warns Matthew that it’s likely there’s nothing wrong with him and he might end up spending a bunch of money for nothing. Matthew asks the doctor if his wife has been to see him. The doctor says he’s not aware of having treated a Mrs. Crawley, and even if he had, he couldn’t say so. Matthew’s convinced that, if anyone’s to blame for this, it’s him and the doctor tells him probability is on his side in this and it’s likely there’ll be another Crawley crawling about soon enough.

Matthew goes to leave, and as he’s heading downstairs, he sees Mary checking in under the name Mrs. Levinson. She looks up and sees him and it’s a bit uncomfortable.

The couple goes for tea and Matthew asks her why she went to the doctor when she had to know all along the problem was him. Turns out the problem wasn’t him, it was Mary, and it required a small operation, which is why she’s been keeping Matthew at arms’ length these past few weeks. Today was actually just a check-up, and everything’s ok, so let the Crawley baby-making begin.

Rosamond has Rose and Edith before her so she can yell at Rose for her behaviour. Matthew and Mary are there as well and Matthew reassures Rosamond that, if Rose steps out of line even a little for the rest of her stay, Matthew will personally telephone her mother. Rosamond accepts that, though she still doesn’t approve of all that’s gone on.

Rose arrives back at the Dower House, and a weary Edith tells her she’s read too many novels where heroines were admired for the feistiness. Rose wonders if the others really will keep quiet and Edith thinks they will, as long as Rose keeps up her end of the bargain. Violet starts to come down the stairs and overhears just enough of the conversation to be curious.

Molesley’s demonstrating proper cricket bat technique in one of the downstairs hallways, which seems like a good way for someone to end up with a bloody nose. Patmore leaves him when she notices Alfred seems distracted and upset. She asks him what’s up but he says nothing. Daisy and Ivy ask Patmore if Thomas is really being sent away without a reference and wonder what he’ll do. Patmore says he could just go abroad and Jimmy tells the girls to stay out of it. Ivy asks why everyone’s acting this way and Patmore tells her she wouldn’t understand what’s happening anyway.

Bates has taken the whole story to Robert, who doesn’t think this is all that big a deal, because he’s a product of Eton which, like all boys’ schools, was apparently a hotbed of boy-on-boy kissing action. Robert thinks Jimmy’s being tiresome and Bates says it’s not Jimmy’s fault, it’s down to O’Brien. That surprises Robert.

Violet sits down with Rose and tells her she’s had a chat with Rose’s mom and they’re going to open their place in Scotland early, so Rose can go there with her Aunt Agatha, who’s apparently as loveable and fun as Bertie Wooster’s aunt of the same name. Rose immediately figures someone blabbed about her and Terrence, completely giving herself away. Violet tells her she’ll stay for the cricket match and leave the day after. Rose threatens to run away but Violet says she’ll do no such thing. Violet’s maid is even going to travel with her on the train so she doesn’t slip away. Rose is powerless and sulky.

Bates goes to see Thomas, who’s amazed that Bates cares at all about him. He figures prison’s changed Bates. I don’t know if it was prison necessarily. Bates didn’t like Thomas, but he never wanted to see him fired. Remember how reluctant he was to give him up for stealing? He’s not the type to want to kick someone when they’re down. Bates tells him O’Brien is behind this, which Thomas knows. Bates asks if that bothers him, but it doesn’t. Thomas muses the possibility of going abroad and doesn’t even rally when Bates asks him if he knows anything about O’Brien that can make her back off. Thomas isn’t interested in playing the game, so Bates offers to do it for him. Oh, he’s going to tell him about The Soap Incident, isn’t he?

Robert has been filled in on Matthew’s new idea, which apparently will displace many farmers, and of course he’s not happy about it. Branson says they need to do this in order to profit from the farms. “Here we go, profit, profit, profit!” Robert spits. Robert, what the hell do you think pays for your lifestyle? You need to make money from something! Jesus, what an idiot. Robert suggests they do this gradually and invest the money instead. He hears about awesome schemes every day that will double, triple, quadruple your investment! You can’t lose! He even suggests getting involved in the original Ponzi scheme. Yes, this is actually where we’ve ended up with this character—he’s such a moron now he’s into get-rich-quick schemes. And for some reason that kind of profit is totally acceptable. Matthew finally loses his temper and reminds Robert what happened the last time he tried investing in something. About time someone brought that up. Why is this man allowed to make monetary decisions anymore? Cora angrily throws herself onto Robert’s side at that, and Mary tries to smooth the waters, but it’s no good. Tom tells them all that they’re giving the famers a choice to sell or not, I guess, and Mary chimes in that they need to build something that’s actually going to work and last, instead of standing by and watching it all crumble. Robert asks what will happen to the tenants, because this seems a bit unfair on them. Cora regains her composure and tells him it’s important for the tenants and everyone else for them to be able to maintain Downton as a place of employment. She tells him that his plan seems to boil down to sitting around doing nothing and spending all of Matthew’s money to keep up appearances. Once they’re hopelessly in debt, they’ll sell up. Yep, seems like a good plan there, skipper. He bitterly observes that they all seem to think it’s time for him to take a back seat. And then he goes off to pout like a child. As he leaves, he passes by Edith in the hall on the phone trying to get some personal info on her editor.

O’Brien heads to the Bates Cottage, having been summoned there by Bates. Anna doesn’t like the idea of having her as their first visitor, but there’s nothing to be done about that. In she comes, telling them the place looks nice. Anna goes to fetch some tea.

Isobel’s arranging flowers and telling Ethel they’ve been summoned to Violet’s.

Chez Bates, Bates wonders why O’Brien’s so bothered by Thomas all of a sudden, when she’s known about him all along. She says she’s just come to her senses. He asks her to persuade Jimmy to let Thomas have a reference. She refuses, so Bates gets up and whispers something in her ear. She blanches and gets up to leave. He tells her to get it done by that evening, or her secret will be out.

O’Brien sits right down with Jimmy, who’s confused by this about-face. Since he’s about as pliable as balsa wood, he still agrees to pull back and asks for a word with Carson.

At family dinner, Edith tells everyone she has to go back to London, because she’s had some bad news and needs to see to something. Mary presses but Matthew tells her it’s none of their business before asking about the cricket match. There’s some more peer pressure on Branson to play, though he repeats that he doesn’t know how to play the game, it’s not that he’s being a pill here. Cora tells them to stop pressuring him, and then pressures him to remain at the house with baby Sybil. Poor Branson’s probably wondering why he didn’t go to Liverpool after all.

As he gets ready for bed, Robert apparently hears things have been smoothed over belowstairs and hints that maybe they’ll keep Thomas around after all, since he’s so good at cricket. God, this cricket game they’ve only ever mentioned this one episode must be super important if they’re twisting themselves into such knots to pull a team together. Bates suggests they just keep Thomas on until after the game, but Robert thinks that would be unkind, because they’d be using him. Well…yeah. Isn’t that the whole point of this? Face it, Robert. You wouldn’t be insisting that he stay at all if he was lousy at cricket.

Molesley is still boring everyone with cricket nonsense belowstairs. Alfred pulls Jimmy aside and asks if it’s true he’s backed down on Thomas and Jimmy says it’s no big deal, because Thomas will still be gone soon enough.

At breakfast, Matthew floats the possibility of visiting one of the farms and, sounding very much like he’s appeasing an annoying wife or a small child, he asks Robert if he wants to come along. Robert snaps his newspaper and sniffs that Matthew can manage well enough on his own. Matthew exchanges a look with Branson and leaves. Branson tells Robert that Matthew really wants him on their side for this thing. Robert grumbles that he doesn’t have the instinct for what Matthew wants to do. Tom realizes this is code for “I’m too posh to know how to make money or want to dirty my hands with it.” Tom says that everyone in this family has to put their gifts towards it. Robert understands the people of the area, and if he joined that with his and Matthew’s skills at actually managing things and not acting like idiots, they could get something done. Robert tells Tom he’s very eloquent and has made a better argument for Matthew’s vision than Matthew has recently. Tom asks if Robert will give them his support and Robert says he’ll think about it as long as Tom plays cricket. Tom says fine, if it really means so much to him. Can we get this stupid match over with already?

Ethel and Isobel report to the Dower House, only to find Mrs. Bryant waiting for them with Violet. Mrs. Bryant  has been fully briefed on the matter of Ethel’s employment, and as it turns out, she’s been a bit uncomfortable with the idea of keeping a son from his mother and vice versa. She doesn’t want to confuse him, though. At this, Ethel breaks in excitedly and says she’s got it all worked out—they can just tell the kid Ethel was his nanny from when he was small. Isobel wonders what Mr. B will have to say about that and Mrs. B, who’s apparently mail-ordered a spine from somewhere, tells them she’ll handle her husband. She tells Ethel to write to Mrs Watson and get the job settled. Ethel’s over the moon.

Hughes, Bates, Anna, and Carson meet to discuss what’s to be done with Thomas. Mrs Hughes suggests Carson make him under-butler. Uh, I think Jimmy will have a problem with that, folks. Seriously, you’d have to keep him away from the footmen, under these circumstances. Not that I think he’d do anything, but because they would probably think he’ll do something. Bates isn’t happy at the idea of Thomas being his superior. Carson’s not sure about any of this. Hughes has moved on to how they’ll convince Jimmy to let all this go ahead. Carson says it’s Robert who wants Thomas to stay, so he can be the one to address it with Jimmy.

Matthew’s trying to teach Branson to play cricket, and Tom kinda sucks. He tells Matthew they’ll never make a gentleman out of him and Matthew grins that he hopes not.

Edith arrives at the editor’s office and tells him she got some flirty vibes from him the last time she was at the office. He tells her she’s not wrong about that. Unfortunately, she’s also not wrong about the fact that he’s married. She tells him she can’t have a married man flirting with her, so she has to resign. He begs her to allow him to explain. Yes, he’s married, but his wife is in an asylum and has been for many years. Edith asks why he hasn’t gotten a divorce and he says he can’t because a lunatic can’t be deemed responsible. I’m pretty sure that’s wrong—in fact, back in the day, insanity was one of the few ways a woman could divorce her husband, but I’m not an expert here. He tells her he’s tied to a woman who doesn’t even know him, but it gives him so much pleasure to read Edith’s column and to know her he really hopes she’ll stay on. Awww. But also: come ON! Let Edith catch a break already!

Finally, this goddamn cricket match is getting underway. Balls are hit, men run. On the sidelines, Violet says she’s glad things have been settled with Ethel. Isobel’s still bitter about how it all went down. So, status quo with these two, then.

Cricket, cricket, cricket. Sorry, I know absolutely nothing about the game, so I can’t really explain what’s going on. Thomas does something well and Robert congratulates him. On the sidelines, Bates sulks a bit that they’re still not going to be rid of Thomas. The man’s like dry rot, just when you think he’s gone, there he is again, upsetting your foundations. Anna asks Bates what he told O’Brien, and apparently all he was told to say was ‘her ladyship’s soap.’ Yes, that did it.

It’s Molesley’s turn at bat. He strikes out, or whatever it’s called. Halftime. Robert calls for tea.

Rose runs over to Edith and accuses her of tattling. Edith denies it, but Rose squeals about being sent north the next day with some harridan, and then goes off to cry in a Wendy house somewhere or whatever it is you do when you’re five and don’t get your way. Violet observes and says the girl couldn’t expect much else, with the way she was behaving. Edith asks who told her, and it turns out that Violet, naturally, just played everyone off each other until she got all the details she needed.

In the refreshment tent, Robert approaches Jimmy and thanks him for being so generous as to look the other way on the whole Thomas affair. This is news to Jimmy, of course. Robert sweetens the pot by making Jimmy first footman, which is news to Carson.

A dark car approaches the game as the music gets ominous, and two men get out, eyed warily by Alfred. They approach Robert and introduce themselves as members of the York police force. The York police force? Really? I don’t think so—York’s a pretty big place to just have one police force. They ask for Alfred, who’s apparently made a complaint about Thomas to them. Robert goes to speak to Alfred first.

Robert, showing some very progressive views that more than a few people nowadays would do well to espouse, tells Alfred that Thomas does not choose to be the way he is, and anyway, no harm was done, so should his life really be destroyed for it? Robert and Alfred return to the policemen and tell them that there’s been a mistake and nothing happened. All good! The police leave.

Tom approaches the tea tent, where Mary’s cuddling little Sybil. He smiles at the baby and goes to sit with Cora, who thanks him for playing. He apologises for having made such a fuss about it and then asks if she would mind if he and little Syb lived at Downton until Siblet gets older. Of course she won’t mind, Branson, but this is not a good idea. It’s not as if you were talking about moving miles and miles away—you were just going to be going to a cottage on the same estate. Probably not one too far from the main house, either. You need to be able to establish yourself to some extent apart from these people, because all they do is pressure you and make you uncomfortable and unhappy. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be a part of your daughter’s and your lives by any means—a big part—but you need a place of your own. Remember how you hated Downton and nearly everything it stood for? What’s changed?

Mary and Matthew stroll together and talk about building their new kingdom while making a little prince. He says he’s excited about both. The match starts back up and he tells her how very much he loves her, then runs back out onto the field (pitch?). He tells Robert he hears he might be on board with making Downton an actual functional estate. Robert says he’s still not entirely sold, but they’ll give it a try. Play recommences and Clarkson hits the ball. Tom catches it and there is much rejoicing in Downton land. In perhaps the cheesiest moment on this show ever, Tom runs in slow motion over to Robert and Matthew so he can shake Robert’s hand and Matthew can clap a hand on both their shoulders and we can get one last look at the shiny new Downton triumvirate. Sorry, I kinda gagged at that last bit.

So, that was series three. I’m happy to see they took some of the series two criticisms to heart and moved away from the more soap opera-style storylines (aside from Edith’s totally uncalled for jilting) but it still had some issues. The storyline involving the loss of the fortune was awkward, not least because the only way Matthew saved the place was through yet another miraculous inheritance. Seriously, how many fortunes can one person unexpectedly inherit in a lifetime? And it gave way too much time to Matthew pissing and moaning and self-flagellating over Lavinia, which I had really hoped we were past at this point. Add to that Mary’s entitled bitchery, and I was pretty much done with this couple. Their complete lack of chemistry sewed it up. In other upstairs news, Robert’s just become a useless cartoon who I can’t support or get interested in anymore and even Violet seems to have lost her mojo to some extent. Other than that crack about Robert looking like a waiter, I can’t recall a single one-liner of hers from the whole season.

Belowstairs, the Bates in prison storyline was hellishly tedious. Did any of us really care? And its resolution was fairly laughable. I’m still trying to make it make sense. So, Vera baked poison into a pie before Bates arrived, and ate it after he left and that somehow proves his innocence? How? The evidence is gone. He could have just as easily slipped the poison into something else she ate, or even into the already-baked pie. Whatever. It seemed like Hughes might have something interesting going on with that breast cancer storyline, but that was resolved and completely dropped so fast it barely had time to register. Thomas letting himself get played by O’Brien was absurd, when he knows how she operates, and when did those two fall out so thoroughly anyway? I recall them being slightly less chummy in the Christmas episode, but at the start of this series it was as if they hated each other.

Now that’s not to say there weren’t some nice moments. Robert’s humbling at the beginning was well acted by Hugh Bonneville, who seems like a really great guy in real life and deserves a much better role than this. And it was nice to see Branson ease up a bit and start integrating into the family, with Matthew’s help, though I think his republicanism was swept under the carpet a little too quickly and too thoroughly. From burning down a castle to living in one in the space of a few months? I don’t think so.

Overall, not bad. It delivered most of what I was looking for: a bit of pretty-to-look-at entertainment on a Sunday night. It didn’t make me think too much (and I wouldn’t have minded thinking a bit more, to be honest) but it was fairly enjoyable, delivered a few surprises, and opens up a few possibilities for what I’m sure will be an inevitable series 4.

See you all then!



3 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: That’s Not Cricket

  1. Maybe the scenes were edited out of your version, but O’Brien turned on Thomas when he refused her request to help her nephew, young Alfred become valet.
    In fact, Thomas tried to block Alfred at every turn by whispering in the ears of Carson and Robert, and causing him to make mistakes.
    Plus Thomas put out a rumor that O’Brien was leaving her job, which caused a lot of upset below stairs, as well as with Cora.
    So you can’t really say that O’Brien was nasty to Thomas for no good reason.

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