Previously on Downton Abbey: Sybil died giving birth to a daughter and Matthew decided it was a good idea for someone with a functional brain to start running Downton.
Mourners depart Downton after the funeral and Robert slowly goes back inside, where Matthew’s offering poor, shattered Tom any help he can offer. I’ve been rather hard on this character (and for good reason), but I do rather like the actor, and he’s really selling this shell-shocked horror and emptiness that someone in that position must be feeling. Robert comes in and tells Cora the guests were looking for her to say goodbye and she rather petulantly says she was right there, in the sitting room. We can see that, Cora. I realise you’re in hate with your husband right now, but there’s no reason to take that out on the guests. Sensing the awkwardness, Isobel says her goodbyes and departs, accompanied by Violet. Robert invites them to stay for dinner but Violet demurs, saying that grief makes one so very tired. She looks like she’s aged a decade. She kisses Cora on the cheek and urges her to try to get some rest now that it’s over. Cora doesn’t think it’s ever really ‘over.’
Belowstairs, Alfred tells Thomas to cheer up already, which is really uncalled for. Anna tells him to button it, because Thomas knew Sybil better than anyone. “Except you,” says Thomas with uncharacteristic generosity. Jimmy tells Thomas his grief speaks well for Sybil and Thomas thanks him, patting him on the thigh. Jimmy looks uncomfortable.
At Crawley House, Ethel quietly asks how the service was. About as well as can be expected. She agrees that there’s nothing worse than losing one’s child. Isobel nearly flinches and says she was thinking of having a little lunch party to try to distract Cora. Ethel offers to cook something special, but judging from Isobel’s expression after trying Ethel’s soup, it’s best to stick with the basics, if she can even handle that.
Anna’s helping Mary dress for bed, and Mary’s wondering why the prison gates haven’t been thrown open for Bates yet. Well, the evidence for his innocence is pretty thin, to be honest. And they don’t tend to free people based on their own claim of what someone else had for dinner. Anna says Murray hasn’t been to see Bartlett yet. Jesus, what’s he waiting for? I thought he knew there was a ticking clock on this. Mary flatly says this is the moment they’ve all been waiting for and Anna’s so touched she bursts into tears. With some actual feeling, Mary says they need some good news in the house, and this just has to be it. Tragic though it ended up, Sybil did give birth to a healthy baby, so couldn’t that be seen as something good? Also: way to make this about you and your family’s needs, Mary.
Robert goes into his and Cora’s bedroom and asks to move back in. She tells him she’s not ready for that yet and he tries to fall back on the notion that this really wasn’t his fault (and, to be fair, it wasn’t—he chose to trust an expert instead of the guy who misdiagnosed paralysis and flu. Honestly, I wouldn’t have listened to Clarkson either.) But Cora won’t hear it and says Clarkson knew Sybil’s history (which had no bearing at all on her development of eclampsia) while the other doctor only had a knighthood and a great reputation and a practice on Harley Street and that’s the fool Robert went with. Robert leaves.
Breakfast the following morning is a subdued affair with everyone still in black and only Robert, Tom, Edith, and Matthew at the table. Matthew asks how the baby’s doing and Tom says he envies her because she doesn’t know anything about what happened. Wow. Ok, then. Edith says they’ll need to get a nurse once the baby’s weaned. Tom says he has no intention of staying long, and Robert’s only too happy to give him the bum’s rush out the door and get his life restarted. Edith tells him there’s no need to rush and steers the conversation towards the christening, which should really happen soon. She asks what he wants to call the baby. Sybil, naturally. Robert, who really just needs to duct tape his goddamn mouth shut already, objects because he thinks that would be painful. Tom agrees that it’ll be painful at first, but it’s the right thing to do, and he wants to remember her mother whenever he sees her. Edith agrees that that’s only right and offers to go see the reverend that afternoon. Tom objects because Little Sybil will be christened Catholic. That, of course, is not ok with Robert, who only barely manages to restrain himself from saying something regrettable before leaving to start his morning.
Ethel catches up with Patmore in the village and asks for help, because she knows she’s a terrible cook. Patmore keeps looking around nervously, no doubt worried about being seen with Ethel, but she starts to pay more attention when she hears this luncheon’s going to include Cora and the girls. Ethel asks for advice preparing a few dishes. Patmore tells her that Carson’s made it clear nobody from the house is to be seen talking to Ethel. Ethel says she’s not going to go corrupting her or anything and it wouldn’t be wrong to show her a kindness in this situation.
Prison. Bates and the others are getting their exercise. The bent guard (Twisted Screw?) catches up to Bates and observes that he doesn’t seem all that optimistic these days. Bates says he’s fine. TS hints that things are about to get rough for Bates, but he won’t give any details.
Robert finds Mary in the park and tells her Tom wants the baby to be “a left footer.” That’s a new one on me, that expression. He snaps that there hasn’t been a Catholic Crawley since Henry VIII arbitrarily changed his country’s religion so he could get a younger wife. Mary points out that the baby isn’t a Crawley, she’s a Branson, to which Robert pompously says the only reason that baby will get ahead in the world is because of the blood of her mother. Damn, he doesn’t have a sympathetic scrap left in him, does he? Mary disagrees and she also disagrees with her father’s declaration that it’s ghoulish to call the child after Sybil.
Isobel’s giving Ethel instructions about the lunch: just get a ham and make a light salad. Surely even Ethel can handle that. Ethel earnestly says she wants to make more of an effort. Isobel appreciates that but thinks it’s best to keep it simple.
Robert goes crying to mommy, who asks him what plans there are for the baby. He asks what she means and she points out the obvious: if Branson takes her to Liverpool or wherever, then it’ll be his influence alone that governs her upbringing. Because he’s a total mental midget, Robert admits he hadn’t thought of that. Robert, who did you think would influence this kid? Violet urges him to give it some thought and asks what Cora has to say. Not much, not to Robert, anyway. He says she’s wretchedly unhappy, grieving for both her daughter and her marriage. Violet firmly tells him that people of their class are never unhappily married, they just have to take a little break every now and again. She suggests Cora take a trip to New York to see “that woman.” She should take Edith with her! Robert says he can’t think straight just now and Violet sympathetically says that there’s no test on earth worse than the one he and his family are being put to just now. Furthermore, she says she doesn’t speak of the heart often, but she knows the great pain of having it broken. It’s nice to see her not just being a one-liner-spouting, meddling, obnoxious woman for once.
In the kitchens, Daisy scolds the footmen for standing around. Alfred says they have a little downtime and Ivy sniffs that she wishes she had their schedule. Alfred checks her out and Daisy tells Ivy to focus on her work and remember she has to do Daisy’s work the next day as well as her own. Jimmy grins and asks if Daisy’s off to see “the rich farmer.” Hey, nice to know they haven’t completely forgotten about William’s dad. I was starting to wonder. Alfred says it would be nice to be one’s own boss and Daisy says he’s no such thing—the weather’s his boss. Patmore returns and shoos the footmen out before telling the girls she’s going out for a little and will be back in time for dinner.
She goes to Crawley House to deliver a menu and list of ingredients to Ethel, who doubts she’ll be able to handle it. Fortunately, Patmore will be on hand to help.
Isobel reports to Downton to invite Cora and the girls to lunch. Violet, who’s been sitting unseen on a nearby sofa, asks if she counts as one of the girls and Isobel hilariously jumps a mile and looks a bit terrified as she slaps on a smile and extends the invitation to her. She notices that Cora’s already dressed for dinner and Cora says they’re having Mr. Travis, the reverend, to dinner at Robert’s invitation. Oh, Robert, you dick. You invited that guy so he can gang up on Branson with you, didn’t you? The man’s a grieving widower, have you no shame you selfish asshole? Cora tries to refuse the lunch invitation and says she’d only bring her troubles with her. Mary and Matthew come in and Violet fills them in on the invite, which Mary thinks is rather lovely and kind. They’re followed by Robert, who asks if she’s there for dinner. Isobel says she’s clearly not dressed for it but the others urge her to stay.
Belowstairs, Alfred asks Daisy if she’s looking forward to her afternoon out. Daisy says she is, and Ivy jumps in to suggest Alfred go along with her. He cheekily suggests he go out with Ivy instead and Patmore yells at them for all being in love with the wrong people. Heh.
Just as I thought, Travis is dumping on the Catholic Church, calling its rituals Pagan and doubting that such things are pleasing to God. I don’t think judging what’s pleasing to God is very pleasing to God, you jerk. Judge not and all that. Also, I really have all the respect in the world for Branson for not getting up and walking out of this total ambush. Branson tightly asks if the entire population of countries like France and Italy and Travis says he’s far more pleased by the Anglicans. Careful Rev, pride’s a deadly sin. Edith awesomely starts naming other countries (and entire continents) of Catholics and the rev backs down slightly. Mary and Matthew pick up the chorus and Robert tells everyone to stop ganging up on Travis. Mary tells him it’s only fair, when Robert and Violet are ganging up against Tom. I’m glad someone said it. Violet protests that she has nothing to do with this nonsense. Robert says he doesn’t think it’ll do the baby any good to be baptised into a different tribe than the Crawleys. I’m sorry—tribe? The hell? And Jesus but I hate religious debates because they always seem so utterly pointless, enraging, and stupid to me. You all worship the same God, right? Who cares, really, if the Catholics do it with stricter rules and more bells and whistles? What does it really matter, in the end? Tom hollowly says the baby will be baptised into her father’s tribe. Robert outrageously claims to be standing up for Sybil’s wishes and Mary tells him that Sybil was quite happy for the baby to be Catholic, having told Mary so the day she died. Tom’s touched to hear that, and when Robert huffs about such a thing in a family like theirs Cora tells him that not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett’s.
Downstairs, Carson’s weighing in on this whole matter, because he doesn’t believe Catholics are loyal to the crown. Why not? Did English and Irish Catholics not fight and die in the war? Jimmy speaks up and says a man can choose to be different without being a bad person. Thomas, of course, agrees with that. Anna wisely shuts down the whole discussion, saying they’ll only end up fighting. And anyway, it’s someone else’s private business. Alfred pipes up that he’s glad to be Church of England and Thomas tries to make him look stupid by asking what he thinks of transubstantiation, a practice exclusive to the Catholic religion that someone raised Church of England very likely would not have even heard of. Dick. Carson tells him his heart’s in the right place, which he can’t say for everyone in that house. For some reason, he seems to look at Molesley there. What was that about? Is Molesley Catholic?
Late that night, Matthew wonders if, when Sybil talked to Mary about the baby being Catholic, she somehow sensed that something was going to happen. Possibly. Then again, she may just have been covering the bases, since death in childbirth was still a very real possibility then. Still is today, though it’s much rarer in developed countries. He comments that he thought he’d be more accustomed to seeing young death, after the war. Well, you do get a bit accustomed to seeing young soldiers die during a war (though of course it’s still sad). It’s still quite shocking when a supposedly healthy young woman just dies on you. Mary says they need to make sure to take nothing for granted, and he says he’s trying to get Robert to see that. They weren’t given Downton by God, they need to work for it. Mary says they need to make sure not to take their relationship for granted too, and he says he’ll love her forever.
Murray finally gets his ass to Mrs. Bartlett’s and apparently gets a very different story from what she told Anna. He confirms her tale that she went to Vera’s after dinner, when Vera was in the process of cooking her own meal. Bartlett says it was actually around lunchtime, which Murray thinks is a lie, because she told Anna the gas lamps were lit. She claims that was wrong. Murray asks her why she let him come there that day, if she wasn’t going to say anything to alter the verdict. She tells him she thought it was time for him to see how real people live. Huh?
Ivy dances around the kitchen a bit and is soon joined by the footmen, of course. Do these guys seriously have nothing else to do? She says she loves the foxtrot and asks how Alfred likes it. Jimmy says Alfred doesn’t know how to dance and she says she likes it because dancing makes you glad to be young. Patmore comes in and the boys make themselves scarce.
Daisy, meanwhile, is making her way to Mr. Mason’s farm, which is buzzing with activity. Must be harvest time. A bit later, the two discuss the idea of her taking over the farm. She protests that she’s a cook, not a farmer, but he tells her she could do a cracking trade in jams and jellies and things. She tells him she’s a girl and he says there are women who take over tenancies, and it’s a good deal, because he owns the equipment and everything. She tells him she can’t answer now and he understands but tells her that his dream is to have her come there and live with him so he could teach her what she needs to know. She admits she always thought she’d spend her life in service and he lays out some reality for her: she’s got a long life ahead of her, and it’s doubtful big places like Downton are going to last that much longer.
Violet has summoned Clarkson to have a more in-depth talk about the death of Sybil. She tells him Cora’s convinced he could have saved Sybil if Robert hadn’t stepped in. She wants to know what the likelihood of survival would have been if he’d operated. He says she might have lived, as there are cases where surgery saved the mother, but not very many. Violet asks him to tell Robert and Cora what he’s just told her, because he’s created a rift in their marriage. I kind of doubt anything would convince Cora at this point that Sybil wouldn’t have lived. I think she’s dead set on blaming Robert for this because being able to allot blame in the case of horrible tragedies can, for some people, be strangely calming. Clarkson says he can’t tell a lie even to ease outright suffering. “Have we nothing in common?” she wonders.
Matthew and Branson take a stroll through that falling-down farm from last week and Matthew explains the situation to Branson. Branson tells Matthew the place would do better with sheep than with barley. Turns out Branson’s grandfather was a tenant farmer. Matthew figures Branson hates it at Downton and Branson admits he doesn’t hate it, but he doesn’t belong there either. Matthew asks what he plans to do and Tom says he’s considering going to Liverpool and bringing a cousin over to care for the baby. Matthew suggests he leave her at Downton, like that’s likely. God, I wouldn’t leave my kid there as long as Robert’s running the show. Tom, of course, says that’s not going to happen, because she’s all he has left of his wife.
Patmore prepares to leave Crawley House, having set Ethel on a course to luncheon success. She gives her some last-minute instructions and kindly tells her she’s doing well. Ethel sincerely says she’s very grateful for Patmore’s help.
Carson’s walking through the village and sees Patmore emerging from Crawley House. He’s gobsmacked.
Murray and Anna go to see Bates, who’s not surprised to hear Bartlett denied everything. Muray believes Anna got Bartlett’s original story right, and he also believes someone tipped the woman off before he got there. Bates suspects Twisted Screw. But that doesn’t matter—they need to consider what to do next. Murray thinks it’s a big deal for a woman like that to flat-out lie to a lawyer. Bates suspects bribery or intimidation and Murray suggests they try to ‘persuade’ her to tell the truth. Bates tells them to leave it with him. Anna warns him not to do anything stupid.
At Crawley House, Isobel bursts into the dining room, where Ethel’s setting up, and freaks out because she can smell cooking. Ethel promises everything will be fine and Isobel panics a bit more and tells Ethel that, if the luncheon is a failure, Ethel will be held responsible. Like the girl really needed to be extra stressed, Isobel.
Meanwhile, at Downton, Carson and Hughes have summoned Patmore so she can explain what she was doing at Crawley House. Patmore explains about the luncheon party and Carson scolds her for going against his strict instructions. Hughes tries to smooth things over by telling him nobody’s disputing his position as head of the household, but he’s not really entitled to dress down Patmore like this. He’s all worked up about Patmore ‘frolicking with prostitutes,’ at which point Patmore gets one of the best lines ever on this show: “Do I look like a frolicker?” HA! He asks who was expected at this luncheon and is even more enraged that Patmore allowed a streetwalkere to wait on members of the Crawley family.
The boys are having a quiet luncheon upstairs. Matthew’s trying to tell Robert that he hopes to spend some time with the estate agent to work some things out. Robert says the agent is too busy, and furthermore, this conversation is boring for Tom, like Tom’s a five-year-old. Tom shakes his head and Matthew points out that Tom is Robert’s son-in-law, and his daughter is Robert’s only grandchild, so sorry, but he’s kind of entitled to be included in this discussion. Matthew tells Robert, who’s acting like a complete child, that they need to do something before the estate gets run into the ground again. Robert’s upset by the suggestion that the estate is badly managed and tells them they’ll discuss this later. Carson chooses that moment to come in and ask Robert for a word.
Alfred goes downstairs and tells Ivy that Robert’s got a real bee in his bonnet. Patmore observes that Ivy’s got very pink cheeks all of a sudden and hopes she’s not coming down with something. Alfred asks Daisy how her day off was and she happily tells him it was lovely. Ivy asks Jimmy what he’s doing on his day off and he tells her he’ll do what he usually does: spend it by his lonesome. Once he leaves, Patmore tells Ivy to give it up already, because he’s not interested. Ivy figures he must be interested in someone, because he’s young and all. Thomas, a little meanly, tells her that someone is not her. Patmore asks Daisy how Mason is and she tells her about Mason’s proposition. She looks terrified by the prospect. Patmore, to her credit, agrees that it’s a generous offer but doesn’t try to push her one way or another, for once.
At Crawley House, the ladies are complimenting the luncheon and Isobel seems shocked it was actually edible. Edith wonders if she should learn how to cook. “Why?” wonders Princess Mary. Edith says it might be good to actually have some practical skills, and she has to learn to do something. What happened with her newspaper column? Isobel asks the same and Edith says she never got back to the editor and figures it’s too late now, and anyway, her father was against it. Cora doesn’t see why that matters, since Robert frequently makes decisions based on values that have no relevance anymore. Edith asks Isobel if she should do it and Isobel quietly says she wouldn’t countermand Edith’s father. Talk about values that have no relevance anymore.
Speak of the devil, Robert comes bursting into the dining room to bust up the luncheon party. He tells the ladies they’re leaving and asks if they’re aware of who prepared the food. They are, and see nothing wrong with it, though Violet is mysteriously unaware that Ethel had an illegitimate baby. She didn’t know that? I thought they all knew about that. Even if she wasn’t at that luncheon last season where Ethel tried to get the Bryants’ attention, surely she would have heard about it afterwards? Cora tells Robert that Ethel has rebuilt her life and he tells her she’s built it into a life of prostitution. Apparently that’s news to the ladies, though it’s not like Ethel’s still practicing or anything. Clearly she’s reformed! Isobel tells Robert he has no idea what Ethel’s had to face and he shouts that he couldn’t care less how Ethel earns her living, but he does care that Isobel’s exposed his family to scandal. No more than your own family’s exposed themselves to scandal, what with one-off flings with dead diplomats, an elopement with a chauffeur, two broken engagements, not to mention your own near affair with your own housemaid.
Poor Ethel comes in just then with the dessert and Violet rather nonsensically comments that she has an appropriate costume for every occasion. Huh? Robert calms down slightly and says they’re leaving. Ethel immediately guesses it’s because of her, and Cora quickly says that it’s not because of her, and furthermore, they’re staying. She admires the dessert and Ethel says Mrs. Patmore helped her with it. “I’m glad to hear that Mrs. Patmore has a good heart and does not judge,” says Cora. Zing! Robert deflates and asks if anyone’s coming with him. Even Violet says it seems like a shame to miss such a good pudding. Defeated, he stomps out. I cheer.
In the prison exercise yard, Bates pulls his cellmate aside, threatens him with something pointy, and demands to know who got to Mrs. Bartlett. He tells the man to warn Bartlett the police are onto her and she needs to tell the truth. If he doesn’t, Bates will go to the warden and tell him Cellmate tried to get Bates to sell illegal drugs for him.
Carson reports the outcome of Robert’s hissy fit to Hughes, who’s surprised to hear even Violet wouldn’t leave. Who told Carson about it, I wonder? Surely not Robert. And I can’t imagine any of the ladies sharing the story with the servants, because there is still a whiff of scandal about being served by a notorious woman. Hughes observes that, if Cora sees fit to go to Crawley House, he can’t really object to Hughes going there either. He admits he can’t, but tells her he’s disappointed in her, because he thought she had standards. Like master, like servant.
After dinner, Mary goes to the library to try to fetch her father, who says he doesn’t want to set her mother’s teeth on edge. Sounding very much like a desperate child trying to end the fight between mommy and daddy, Mary reassures him her mother will come through this. But his stupid performance earlier that day didn’t help things. He says he was just angry with Isobel and she counters that he’s not mad at Isobel, he’s mad that the world isn’t going his way. He snappishly asks if Matthew has told her about his outrageous plans to make sure the estate is actually run well and pouts that Matthew practically accused him of letting the estate fall to pieces. Well, Robert, if the shoe fits…
Mary tells him he’s going to lose over this whole christening question. He asks if Sybil really didn’t mind and Mary says Sybil wanted Tom to be happy, because she loved him very much. He admits he keeps forgetting she’s gone: he’ll see something in the paper and want to show it to her, or he’ll want to tell her that her favourite rose is blooming, and then it all comes back. Wow, finally, a humanizing moment. Mary tearfully begs him to say that to her mother, but he just stiffly says she doesn’t want to hear it from him. You won’t know until you try, right, Robert?
Mary and Matthew go upstairs to see Tom and the baby. Aww. Tom tells them the baby’s doing really well and hands her to Mary, who rocks her gently.
Belowstairs, Molesley is expressing his astonishment that the ladies stayed at the luncheon. He declares he couldn’t have swallowed another bite and Hughes points out that Jesus ate with Mary Magdalene. Further down the table, Ivy puts up her feet with the footmen, until Patmore comes in and tells her she still has work to do. She then notices that Ivy’s wearing blush, which is a no-no in Patmore’s book. Ivy says all the girls do it now but Patmore will have none of that. Jimmy goes over to the piano and starts playing and Anna says it’s nice to have another piano player in the house. She wonders if it’s too soon, but Hughes says Sybil wouldn’t have minded. Thomas goes over to Jimmy and starts rubbing his shoulders. Luckily for Jimmy, O’Brien appears and tells Thomas he’s wanted upstairs. Once he’s gone, Jimmy admits the guy totally creeps him out. He wants to talk to Mr. Carson about it.
The next day, Daisy finds Alfred in the servants’ hall trying to figure out the foxtrot. He asks if she knows it and if she can teach him. She smiles and agrees. He’s adorably awkward, and it’s even funnier because he’s super tall and she’s on the petite side. Still, they manage.
Outside, Anna goes racing across the park to where Mary’s strolling with Edith. She joyfully tells them that Murray’s managed to get Mrs. Bartlett to change her story, and Anna’s so overjoyed she had to run and tell Mary first. Bates will be released in a few weeks. The girls tell her how happy they are for her and urge her to go tell Robert, because he needs to hear some good news..
At the house, Cora heads into the library with a note from Violet apparently summoning both her and Robert to a little sit-down. She asks if they really have to go and he says yes, but they won’t need to stay long. He tries to compliment her but she swiftly shuts him down.
Happily, in come Anna, Mary, and Edith with the good news about Bates. Robert’s genuinely delighted to hear it and tells her she can feel free to telephone Murray, if she wants to.
Belowstairs, Ethel comes wandering in with a small bouquet of flowers, quickly catching Carson’s attention. He demands to know what she’s doing there and Ethel apologises and explains she wanted to thank Patmore properly with some flowers. He tells her they have plenty in their own gardens, but Hughes steps in and tells her that’s a sweet gesture and Mrs. Patmore can be found in the kitchen. Ethel takes off and Hughes says she hopes Carson never needs a favour from his fellow man. He says he knows that, at the end of it, she’ll never abandon him. Probably true, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nice to other people.
Jimmy finds Alfred and Daisy still working on the foxtrot, and because he’s kind of a dick who seems to be carrying a torch for Daisy, he tells her Alfred’s only learning it to please Ivy. He steps in and starts dancing her around, doing much better than Alfred was, but then Carson spots them and puts an end to the fun, scolding them for being frivolous during a time of mourning. He tells Jimmy this isn’t the behavior of a first footman and that Alfred seems more the first footman to him, since he’s just standing there looking a bit gormless. Carson unnecessarily tells Jimmy he’s a disgrace and tells Daisy she sucks. He goes, and Jimmy sniffs at Alfred for not speaking up. Alfred offers to go back to practicing with Daisy, but she snaps at him to ask Ivy instead.
Cora and Robert report to Violet and find Clarkson waiting for them as well. Robert starts off by apologising to Clarkson, but Clarkson cuts him off and admits that it’s very unlikely Sybil would have survived even with surgery, according to his recent research. Eclampsia is almost always fatal, and if they’d carted her off to the hospital they would have subjected her to the fear and horror of a rushed operation, and then she probably would have died anyway. Cora tries to cling to the tiny chance but Clarkson gently tells her the chance was infinitesimal. Sybil was just doomed. On that note, Clarkson departs. Cora bursts into tears and Robert goes to embrace her. After a moment, she hugs him back.