Previously on Downton Abbey: Edith got seriously kicked in the teeth by life and her family yet again, Hughes is probably going to live after all, and Matthew accepted Swire’s inheritance.
Carson hands out the mail to the staff and it seems Anna’s the only person not to get anything. It’s not the first time she’s been left emptyhanded either. Bates, you dick.
Speak of the devil, he’s in prison, also not getting any letters. Hmmm. I’d believe he’d stop writing in some misguided ‘You must go on without me!’ nonsense, but I’d never believe Anna would stop sending letters.
Back at Downton, Matthew’s whining about having to actually involve himself in the estate he now part owns and Mary’s sniping at him to get moving on the work. Match made in heaven, these two. Matthew asks Anna how Bates is doing and she admits she hasn’t seen him for a while, because they stopped all his visitors at the prison. She also mentions she hasn’t had any letters. Matthew seems interested.
Hughes is working on something when Isobel comes into her sitting room and hands over a letter she received from Ethel for Hughes. Isobel tells her Ethel’s been working as a prostitute, which both saddens and shocks Hughes. Isobel takes this as an opportunity to take a stand against the unfair treatment of fallen women and asks Hughes to send word if the letter gives any indication of how she can help Ethel. Hughes promises to do so, but she doubts Ethel will say much, out of shame.
Robert and Matthew are having after-dinner drinks, and Carson thinks this is a good time to clarify whom he should answer to. Matthew clarifies that he’s made an investment in the estate, but Robert will still run things. Right back into the ground. Carson asks if they can start hiring again, and while Matthew seems to think it wise to be a bit prudent, Robert gives the go-ahead. What the heck, it’s not his money, right? Matthew hints that the world has changed a bit and maybe they should change too, but Carson complains that he’s tired of having to do the duties of a footman, and Robert says he shouldn’t be expected to. They’ll have to keep slumming for the dinner for the Archbishop of York, but that should be the last time Downton will be so shamed by the absence of an extra footman.
Over breakfast, Matthew asks Edith why she doesn’t have breakfast in bed, like his lazy wife and mother-in-law do. She tells him it’s because she’s not married. He seems to think that doesn’t matter anymore, but she does. I notice she’s also adopted a sadly frumpy hairstyle. Edith! There’s hope for you yet—don’t embrace some sad, maiden auntie existence just yet! Hie thee to America and party hard!
Robert, who’s reading the paper, notes that women in America are getting the vote. Edith snarks that that’s more than women in England have (well, women under age 30, anyway). She thinks it’s ridiculous that she can’t vote, and Matthew suggests she write that to the Times. Robert sends her off to go help her mother with preparations for the Archbishop’s dinner that night.
Anna heads belowstairs, steels herself, and goes into the servants’ hall for lunch. Carson tells her they’ll be hiring a new housemaid soon, and when she doesn’t do cartwheels across the room, he and Hughes call her on it. She says she’s got a lot on her mind. Seriously, Carson and Hughes, have a little sensitivity. Carson says they’ll have a new footman as well and Thomas needlessly puts in his two cents and urges Carson to hire someone good, because Thomas hates to think that the house isn’t being properly represented. Alfred correctly realizes that was a jibe at him, and he’s rather vocal about it.
Hughes leans over and whispers to Carson that she’s had a letter from Ethel saying she wants to meet up with Hughes somewhere away from the house. Carson can’t imagine why someone who was sacked in disgrace and then totally embarrassed herself in front of wealthy guests would be uncomfortable coming back to Downton, but Hughes won’t spell it out for him. It seems like this would be a conversation they would be having away from the other servants, in reality, because they’d just be inciting crazy gossip, but I guess they wanted to save on time and sets. Hughes plans to ask Isobel if they can meet at Crawley House.
Mary has summoned Matthew to the nursery, which she’s appropriating for use as a sitting room for them. And that confirms my assumption that Mary is utterly uninterested in motherhood. Thank God, because could you imagine her as a parent? She’s way too self-centred, she’d suck at it. She wants Matthew to help her pick out wallpaper, because she’s a newlywed and hasn’t yet realized that most straight men, particularly of that period, couldn’t possibly care less about the paper on the walls or fabric swatches. Matthew thinks she has more news to tell him, since she went to the doctor earlier. Matthew, she’s nabbing the nursery to use as a sitting room. Obviously she doesn’t have that kind of news. Mary dismissively says she went to get something for her hayfever. He asks her what they’ll use as a nursery, should the need arise, and her lack of interest speaks volume.
Edith is delivering some perfume to her hateful grandmother, who asks how she’s doing, like she wasn’t actively complicit in Edith’s humiliation and misery. Edith says she’s doing ok, and Violet goes on to say she worries about Edith, because “that sort of thing” is so very, very awful. Does she not remember that she urged Strallen to get out of the church and for Edith to allow this to happen? Seriously, is she losing it in her old age? Is that what we’re seeing here? Or does she not realize what a terrible person she is?
Edith agrees that being jilted at the altar is terrible, and Violet urges her to keep busy. Edith isn’t sure what to keep busy with, because there’s nothing to do at the house. Violet tells her to stop whining and find something to do. She’d have something to do if you hadn’t wrecked her relationship, Violet!
Hughes comes upon Anna, tearing up belowstairs, and asks her what’s wrong. Anna says she hasn’t had a letter from Bates in weeks and she’s worried he’s being gallant and trying to get her to move on with her life. Hughes doubts it and thinks he must have some good reason for doing this. Anna seems heartened.
At the prison, Bates’s new friend whispers during arts-and-crafts time that the guards know he tricked them, and they’re not happy about it. So they reported Bates to the governor for violence, and that’s why he hasn’t gotten any letters in or out. No visitors, either. Bates is delighted to hear that, because he’d thought Anna had given up on him. As if she ever would, Bates.
Back at Downton, Carson’s running Alfred through his paces, making him identify various types of spoons. He does fine until he gets to the bouillon spoon, which is different from other soup spoons because it’s drunk from a smaller dish. And that’s your History of Cutlery lesson for today. Carson sends Alfred on his way and Thomas complains that Carson never took as much trouble with him when he was a footman. Carson tells him that Alfred asked for help, but Thomas never did.
Ethel has arrived at Crawley House, so we can finally get this plot thread moving. She asks Hughes to write to the Bryants to tell them they can have her son after all. Hughes reminds her that they already explored this path, and Isobel urges her to think about this and be sure. Ethel says she was thinking of herself when she held on to little Charlie, but she can barely scrape a living now. Isobel reminds her that she works with other girls just like her, so surely they can find some way to help her out. Ethel tells her that Charlie’s grandparents could offer him stability, which she cannot. Isobel suggests a compromise: have Hughes write to the Bryants, but leave things vague, saying only Ethel wants them to keep in contact with their grandson. Hughes promises to do so, and then excuses herself to get ready for the bishop.
Outside in the hall, Hughes tells Bird that Ethel’s had it very hard, but Bird is not only unsympathetic, she’s downright judgmental. When Isobel leads Ethel out, Bird won’t help her out with her coat until Isobel orders her to. Once Ethel’s gone, Isobel scolds Bird for being rude, but Bird stands her ground and says it’s not part of her job to wait on fallen women.
The Archbishop and Robert talk about Catholics (for the record, the Archbishop doesn’t mind them and doesn’t understand anti-Catholic sentiment, while Robert dislikes them and considers them “Johnny Foreigners,” whatever that means.
Meanwhile, someone waits in the rain for a policeman to bicycle past before fleeing up the street.
And Sybil is on the phone in a shop or something, giving a cryptic message to Edith that consists of very cloak-and-daggar phrases like “I’m out of the flat” and “they haven’t stopped me.” Has she been reading John Buchan or something? She hangs up without clarifying to a very confused Edith.
Edith goes into the sitting room and tells Mary and her mother and tells her about the odd conversation. Before they can parse it, Carson announces dinner.
In the middle of the meal, someone starts hammering on the front door. Alfred opens it, and it’s Branson. Mary joins them in the hall and is, like, WTH? He babbles about Sybil probably being on her way by now (one hopes…) and won’t let Mary go tell the others he’s there (Branson, I think they all heard you knocking). He tells her that nobody must know he’s there, just as Matthew comes out. Mary sends him upstairs to find some dry clothes and sends Alfred to sort out some food for him.
She returns to the dinner table and says it was some idiot delivering a village pamphlet, but she whispers to Robert that it was really Branson, and Sybil’s on her way. Robert complains that other families have normal sons-in-law who just farm or serve in the army, and Violet tells him that no family is ever quite what it seems from the outside.
Belowstairs, the servants speculate as to what’s going on. Thomas thinks it’s suspicious he didn’t take a cab from the station. Wow, that tiny village has a cab service? Hughes thinks he just likes the walk, but O’Brien points out how dumb that is, considering the weather. Carson arrives and takes the dinner tray Daisy’s holding for Branson.
After the Archbishop leaves, Branson finally sits down with the family to tell them that the local lord and his family were turned out of their castle before it was burned. Edith thinks that’s terrible, but Violet reminds her that that house was hideous. Robert asks how Branson was involved, and it turns out he wasn’t, but the police think he was, so now they’re after him. Cora accuses him of saving his own skin and leaving Sybil to swing and tells Robert he’ll have to go see the Home Secretary about this. Robert’s just barely suppressing his rage, and it gets even harder when he hears that Branson was actually present at the burning of the castle. Branson says that such places are symbols of oppression to him, but when he saw these people crying as they watched their home burn, he felt kind of bad. Well, that’s good of him. Edith interrupts the sentiment to ask where Sybil is. Branson explains that they agreed he should leave, while she remained behind and closed up their flat. He caught the last boat, so she won’t be there until the next morning. At this, Robert explodes, accusing him of leaving a pregnant woman to fend for herself in a hostile country. Cora tries to diffuse the situation but Robert will not be appeased. He tells Branson, like a child, to go to bed and goes to think all this over.
Upstairs, Branson bursts into tears and flops down on the bed, weeping.
Belowstairs, Molesley snottily observes that Sybil married beneath her. Patmore shuts him up and O’Brien wonders what’ll happen if Branson has to go to prison. Carson shuts down the discussion and tells everyone to go to bed, like children. Like master, like servant. Once the kids are gone, Carson tells Hughes they have no idea where Sybil is and, frankly, he always knew this marriage was a mistake. Hughes chooses this moment to pull out a present she’s given herself: an electric toaster. If it’s good, she’s going to suggest one for the upstairs breakfast. Carson puffs his chest and tells her they’re harboring a dangerous criminal, so she could have spared him the toaster just now.
The next morning, Simon Baker’s younger brother makes his way through the belowstairs areas, looking for Carson. His name’s Jimmy Kent and he’s there to interview for the footman position. Thomas is practically giddy at the prospect, and honestly, I can’t blame him. Hughes asks him to wait and goes to fetch Carson.
Robert has gathered the family so he can have an audience while he lambasts Branson for the way Ireland is behaving. Mary tells him to move along and make sure to keep Branson out of prison. Robert tells them he’ll head to London and see Murray and the Home Secretary. Cora thanks him. Robert asks them to let him know if Sybil gets in touch, but Branson says she won’t, because she doesn’t want to give the authorities any way to trace Branson. If the authorities don’t think to look at his in-laws’ house immediately, they kind of suck at their jobs, Branson. Robert observes that Branson lives in a harsh world, and Branson counters that they all do. Not really—Robert’s world is pretty damn cushy.
Carson’s interviewing Jimmy and surmises he’s pretty popular with the ladies. Well, with a face like that, yeah.
Ethel’s bringing her toddler to see Isobel and the Bryants. Mr. Bryant has brought his horrible attitude with him, and how he’s got extra ammo because he knows how Ethel makes her living. Hughes is absolutely staring daggers at this man as he darkly says he’s judging Ethel and finding her wanting. Well, thank you for clearing that up, douchebag. Poor Mrs. B tries to cushion her husband’s harshness and offers Ethel some money so she can live, which Isobel thinks is generous. Ethel says nothing. Isobel calls her to help with the tea, and Ethel leaves Charlie to play with his grandparents, who happily hand him a toy and start cuddling him.
Out in the hallway, Ethel offers to take the tea-tray from Bird, who gives it over with an extra helping of attitude, like Ethel hasn’t already taken enough. Isobel tells her whatever she decides, it is still her decision. Ethel asks if she should really take money from that man, and much as I hate to say it (because he’s a douchebag), yes, Ethel, you should. He’s a jerk extraordinaire, no mistake, but you’re low on options here, aren’t you? Take it. She seems like she’d rather just let the Bryants take the kid, because whatever money won’t be enough to send Charlie to a good school or anything. Isobel says that a mother’s love will be worth more than that. Not on the job market, Isobel, sorry to say. Ethel essentially points that out and they go back in.
Feeding time at the prison. Bates and his new buddy sit down together and talk about something going down the following night. I’m really sorry—I don’t know if it’s the sound quality of my television or the sound quality of the program or the friend’s accent, but I can barely understand what these two are saying no matter how many times I watch these scenes. Bates asks the man why he’s helping him and friend says it’s because he can’t stand Bates’s cellmate.
Back at Crawley House, Mrs. B nicely compliments Ethel’s serving technique and Hughes pipes up that she was a good worker. Mrs. B urges her to accept their offer and be friends with them, but Ethel turns them down. Seems she’s made up her mind about them taking the kid.
At Downton, Matthew’s at work in the library on some estate business. Mary comes in, learns there’s no news, and asks him how he’s getting along. He says it’s going all right. Mary orders up some tea from Carson and asks him how the footmen interviews are going. He says it’s down to two candidates, and all the ladies are clamoring for Jimmy. Mary tells him to go ahead and hire him. Before he goes, Carson rather sweetly says Alfred’s a good lad and not to be discounted, even if he is O’Brien’s nephew. Hee!
Crawley House. The Bryants are leaving, and Mrs. B lets Charlie say goodbye to Ethel. She tearfully kisses him goodbye, and the poor child clearly doesn’t know what’s happening yet. Mr. B bundles him off into the car, and Mrs. B promises to write to her. Ethel weeps and says she’ll never see her son again, but Mrs. B says never is a very long time. Anything can happen. She gets in the car and they drive off as the music swells and the tears flow. Hughes goes to awkwardly comfort Ethel and tells her what she did was the hardest thing to do. Ethel knows Isobel doesn’t approve, and of course she doesn’t, but she won’t say so, now it’s happened. Hughes tells Ethel that, whatever Isobel thinks, she did the best thing for the boy. Ethel pulls herself together and walks off and Hughes wonders what kind of chance she’ll have. Oh, Isobel now has A Project!
Guards visit Bates’s cell again and toss it, finding contraband in the cellmate’s bunk. He claims to know nothing about it, but they take him away anyhow. As he goes, he tells Bates he’ll be sorry.
Sybil finally makes it to Downton and is immediately greeted by her tearful husband. It’s actually pretty sweet and almost makes up for what a total pill he’s been in past episodes. Almost.
Her next stop is her bedroom, to explain things to her mother and sisters. Cora still can’t believe Branson just left her to fend for herself but Sybil insists it wasn’t like that. Cora tells her she mustn’t travel anymore, not until the baby’s born. Sybil says that Branson wants the baby born in Dublin. And what do you want, Sybil? After all, you’re the one who has to actually birth this child, do you not get a say? Mary can’t believe he would hold her to that at this point. Carson comes in with a telegram from Robert: he’s seen the Home Secretary and is on his way home, and neither Sybil nor Branson are to leave.
Molesley catches Thomas as he comes in (apparently Thomas went to London with Robert) and tells him a new footman’s been hired, before asking him if ‘the firebrand’ has been saved. Thomas remains mum on the subject. On his way upstairs, he finds Jimmy getting changed into his uniform. Jimmy turns around so we can all admire his six pack and asks Thomas if he can ask him any questions, seeing as how he was once a footman there. Thomas is a-ok with that. O’Brien passes by as well, gets an eyeful of Jimmy, and the wheels seem to start turning in her head.
Robert’s back and telling Branson that, if he ever goes back to Ireland, he’ll be tossed in prison. Guess that settles the birth issue, then. Apparently, Branson was attending meetings where attacks on the Anglo-Irish were planned, and the Anglos don’t look too kindly on that sort of thing. Even Sybil didn’t seem to know that, and she’s not happy. Robert goes on to say that the government doesn’t want to make Tom some kind of martyr, and they don’t want to end up with some Sybil-shaped firebrand, so they’ll leave him alone as long as he stays out of Ireland.
In the kitchens, Alfred and Jimmy tussle over who’s going to be first footman and who’s going to be second. Well, Alfred tussles, Jimmy smiles charmingly. Once they’re gone, Daisy complains about the lack of new kitchen maid again and Patmore advises her to be patient.
At dinner, Violet’s surprised to hear that Edith took Matthew’s advice and wrote to the Times. Neither Cora nor Violet are happy to hear about it, and Robert condescendingly tells her it won’t be published anyway. Man, he really, really hates this kid, doesn’t he? What did Edith do to make her own father loathe her so much? Edith snidely thanks him for the vote of confidence (thank you, Edith!) and Cora introduces the new footman. Once he’s gone, all the ladies comment on how good-looking he is, and Edith, of course, puts in a kind word for Alfred.
Belowstairs, Jimmy complains about having to be known as ‘James’ abovestairs. Carson tells him to suck it up, and Jimmy complains to Alfred that Carson thinks he’s ‘the big cheese.’ Well, yeah, Jimmy, he’s the butler! Alfred says the same. O’Brien watches Jimmy pass and observes to Thomas that he’s rather nice.
Upstairs, it’s uncomfortable cigars and port for the men, until Branson excuses himself. Robert tells him they’ll start making plans in the morning, though Branson sulkily doesn’t see how he’ll live out of Mother Ireland, especially now it’s coming of age. Well, Branson, you should have thought of that before, shouldn’t you? You’ve got yourself in a mess and now you have to live with it. He does have the grace to tell Robert he’s grateful for what he’s done to keep him out of prison. Robert doesn’t believe he’s grateful at all, but he doesn’t care, because he only did what he did for Sybil. He changes the subject to the estate business Matthew’s been looking at. Matthew’s happy for the opportunity to talk about it, because he saw some things he thinks should be changed. Robert tells him he sounds like Murray, who’s always going on about changing something or other. Robert, considering the scare you just had, maybe you should consider listening to Murray a little more carefully in future. Matthew tries to gently bring up the subject of change, but of course Robert’s not interested in that. Because he’s incapable of learning from his own mistakes.
A guard shows up at Bates’s cell and tosses some letters at him. Actually, he tosses a great big pile of letters at him and tells him they came while he was out of favour. But now he’s in favour again (I guess he tipped the guards off about that contraband or something). The guard warns him to watch out for his cellmate in future. Bates smiles and practically cries as he opens his letters.
Carson’s working on something in a hallway when he suddenly smells smoke. He grabs a fire bucket and rushes towards the source, but it turns out it’s just Hughes’s new toaster, which she forgot to set the timer for.
Upstairs, Sybil’s asking Branson what else he hasn’t told her, aside from the fact that he was going to those meetings? Instead of answering, he tells her he can’t stay at Downton. She says he has to, and their baby has to be born there. “You’re very free with your ‘musts’” he says, like he hasn’t been in the habit of ignoring her wants and ordering her about. She stands her ground and reminds him this is best for their child: peace and safety. So, it looks like the BranSpawn will be born at Downton after all, like we ever doubted it.
The following morning, Robert gets a shock in the paper: Edith’s letter on women’s rights has been printed. She’s delighted, as she should be, but he’s displeased. Matthew congratulates her, but Robert’s got an ally in Carson, who can barely keep his mouth shut.
Belowstairs, Hughes delivers a packet of letters to Anna, who reacts almost exactly the same way Bates did. Aww.
Alfred heads into the kitchen and thanks Daisy for backing him on the first footman/second footman debate of the night before. He says it’s nice to know she’s on his side. She steels herself and goes to say something important, I’m sure, but then Patmore comes in and introduces the new kitchenmaid, whom Alfred almost instantly hits on. Oh, Alfred. Come on, you had to have an inkling what Daisy was going to say. That’s just mean. Patmore tells the girl she’s not to listen to a word Alfred says and shoos him away. New girl tells Daisy she hopes they get along, but Daisy shuts her right down.
Matthew, astonishingly, has gone to Violet for advice on how to talk to Robert about the terrible management at Downton. He wants to know how to go about making changes without upsetting anyone. She tells him there’s just no way to do that. He has to do what he has to do, but it’s going to annoy quite a few people. Good advice, really.
Bates and Anna snuggle up in their respective beds and read their letters. Aww, again!