Previously on Downton Abbey: Robert’s disregard for his wife reached such a critical stage even she couldn’t ignore it anymore. Nor could she ignore the attention being paid to her by art historian Simon Bricker. Mary’s tired of Gil, but Blake may have a plan to soften the blow, Edith’s been shut out of the Drewes’ lives, Merton proposes to Isobel, and Sarah’s ridiculous.
Rosamond’s come for a visit. Cora greets her and takes her into the library for tea. Rose reads in the newspaper that a nudist colony is being started up in Essex.
Violet: Isn’t it terribly damp?
Robert tells everyone that there’s going to be a cocktail party that weekend, before pompously adding that he’s going to be away the night before at an official dinner that he’s attending in his Lord Lieutenant capacity. Oh, he’s still doing that? Good to know. He’ll be away all night.
Violet asks Isobel if she’s made a decision regarding Merton and Isobel plays coy, saying she thinks it’s appropriate to tell him before she tells Violet.
Patmore goes to see Carson, who’s hanging out with Hughes, and tells them an old aunt’s died and left her some money. Carson immediately (pompously) assumes Patmore wants his advice on what to do with the inheritance. And he’s right. Hughes thinks she should ask Tom or Clarkson instead, since they’ve got some sort of clue what’s going on in the outside world whereas Clarkson can barely even stomach the sight of a radio. Carson promises to give the matter some thought.
Rosamond summons Edith to her room before dinner to find out what the deal is with this ‘farmer’s daughter’ Edith’s taken such an interest in. Edith acknowledges that it’s her daughter, which Rosamond had already figured out, not being an idiot. (And, for anyone interested, Mrs Schroeder, the woman who originally adopted Marigold, adopted another kid, so she’s all good). Edith tells her about Mrs Drewe keeping her away.
Rosamond: So, basically we have a human timebomb ticking away right on our doorstep, and you’re not even getting the emotional reward you were hoping for by having your child close? Tell me again what the point was in bringing her back to England?
Tom joins Robert for a pre-dinner drink and, when asked, says Sarah’s still giving Daisy lessons. He adds that he doesn’t plan to invite her back to dinner now she’s caused chaos on each of the three occasions she’s been invited to Downton. Robert’s actually rather kind here and acknowledges that he understands Tom sometimes feels out of place and excluded. Tom says he’s grateful for all his in-laws have done for him, but his vision of where the country’s headed is just different from theirs. And yet, unlike Sarah, you’ve found a way to get along and work with these people with differing opinions. That’s what makes you a functional adult, Tom. Please recognize the fact that this trait is completely missing in Sarah, which means she’d be a terrible partner for you.
Tom goes on to say that, when he’s around Sarah, he doesn’t feel like a freak or a fool, devoid of common sense. Well, no, because when Sarah’s around, she’s filling all of those roles to a T. Robert reminds Tom that, in his time living at Downton, he’s managed to integrate and befriend people he once considered enemies, and he urges him not to leave all that behind.
The next day, Carson tells Anna that Sgt Willis is going to be looking in to talk to Anna and Mary. Thomas listens in on this quick message, which is being delivered in the servants’ hall, so it’s not like it’s a secret or anything.
Violet’s still working on Operation: Bust up IsoMerton (MerTobel?) and is clearly getting desperate. She’s gone to see Clarkson to see if he’ll help her break these two up, insisting it would be a terrible marriage for Isobel, living in a draughty house with a man who bores her. What she’s basing that assumption on I don’t know, because Isobel’s certainly never seemed bored by Merton. Clarkson asks if Violet’s problem here is that she resents the idea of Isobel becoming a member of the aristocracy. Violet claims to be bewildered by the very question. Yeah, right.
Edith steams up to the Drewe home with Rosamond in tow, explaining that she’s brought her aunt along to introduce her to Marigold. And because she has no perspective whatsoever, Edith doesn’t see that this is essentially proving Mrs Drewe’s concerns correct, that Edith sees this child as a doll to be used for playtime and show-and-tell. How would any of us feel if some pushy neighbor brought some random relative of theirs—a stranger to you—to your house to show them your kid? That would downright creep most of us out, and it should. Rosamond apologises for interrupting Mrs Drewe’s day. The two women awkwardly look down at the little girl as Drewe comes out of the house. His wife snippily explains that Lady Edith wanted to show off Marigold. Rosamond hurries this along and she and Edith say goodbye. Once they’re gone. Mrs Drewe goes to her husband and angrily tells him that it’s clear Edith just wants the child to be her toy, and that this is all his fault. The poor man doesn’t know what to do anymore.
Carson asks Hughes what she meant earlier when she said that all of them at Downton live rather out of the way. She tells him it’s totally true, but he pouts that they’re totally modern there. Yeah, they’ve got a telephone and everything! They’ve learned to do without multiple footmen! Hughes asks him what he plans to tell Patmore and he says he doesn’t know. Molesley comes running up to say that Willis has arrived, along with a man from London.
The other man, Anna explains to Mary, is an inspector from Scotland Yard. Mary gets ready to go down and talk to them and tells Anna that she’s catching a train to London to have dinner with Blake the next day. That’s a hell of a trip just for dinner.
Sarah intercepts Tom in town and asks if she’s finished their relationship before it even got started. Yes, Sarah, you did. He tells her that she pitted herself against his family from the beginning and refused to be in any way reasonable, so yeah, it’s unlikely a relationship between the two of them would be successful at this point. He reminds her that these people she behaves so horribly towards are the relatives of his beloved wife and his child. How could Sarah ever hope to mother a child that belongs to a class Sarah hates unreservedly? Seeming bewildered, Sarah asks if he doesn’t despise these people. Sarah, do your ears not work? He told you right before dinner that he loves these people, because he knows them as actual people instead of cardboard representations of their class or their class’s political views. He tells her he does not hate these people and that he doesn’t think in black-and-white terms anymore. ‘Well, I do,’ Sarah flings back. Sarah, that not only makes you a terrible fit for the teaching profession, it also makes you a terrible fit for the role of functional adult. Because most people who have made it past the age of, oh, ten or so understand that almost nothing in life is black-and-white. Everything has nuances. That’s what makes life complex. That’s what makes relationships complex. Good lord, Tom, run now and run fast!
Tom says he’s glad he knew her and is relieved to know he’s not the last socialist left on earth (???) but maybe they should just call it a day before one of them gets hurt. And with that, he calmly climbs into the car and drives off while she pouts off in the other direction.
The sergeant and the inspector are interviewing Mary as Robert sits by. She’s cool as a cucumber as she explains she was in London and had lunch with Gil before heading back home to attend the village fete. The inspector confirms that Gil arrived during the fete with news of Greene’s death. Mary adds that she then told Anna. Well, that might strike someone as a little strange. Why would Gil jump on a train to come all the way up to Downton to tell Mary his valet had died in an accident? And then why should she tell Anna? But the detective doesn’t wonder any of those things (out loud, at least), simply asking if Anna seemed surprised. Mary says she was very shocked. He seems not to believe that. The sergeant asks if she has any reason to believe Bates was in London that day and Mary says she has no reason at all. She’s a cool liar.
Isobel and Violet are working on a puzzle and talking about how Isobel feels badly that Violet’s always the one doing the entertaining. Violet doesn’t mind, since her cook needs people to cook for and she thinks Sprat needs something to occupy his mind, because it seems Violet’s lady’s maid is on her way out. Violet thinks Sprat will miss having someone who was willing to do his bidding. Violet changes the subject to some news she’s had of Princess Kuragin, courtesy of Shrimpy. He’s heard of a crowd of Russian nurses working in Hong Kong, but Violet doesn’t want to tell Kuragin until they’re certain.
The inspector and sergeant are now questioning Anna, who gets Hughes as her second. The sergeant’s befuddled by the fact that Carson forgot that Anna was in London that day, but Anna tries to explain that the movements of ladies’ maids don’t fall under the purview of the butler. Hughes backs her. Inspector asks if she likes Greene and Anna, just as good a liar as her employer, says she did. Inspector reminds her that Greene didn’t seem to like her husband and Anna shrugs that there’s no accounting for taste.
Carson finds Robert in the dining room looking over plans for the new houses for Pip’s Corner. Robert tells him he’s chosen a sound local firm to handle the building works. He adds that they should all be investing in building because fortunes will be made in the next few years.
Rose is coming out of a confectionary shop, laden with parcels, into the pouring rain. A young man passing by offers her a hand so she can get her umbrella open and she gratefully accepts. He gallantly insists on carrying the cakes and as they walk to the church she mentions that she gives tea to Russian refugees who all love cake. What a coincidence, he loves cake too! She smiles and invites him to have some. She asks if he’s interested in Russia and he says no, though he should be, because his family’s actually Russian. Rose insists he come in for tea as a thank you, and then introduces herself. He introduces himself as Atticus Aldridge.
Carson goes to Patmore and suggests she invest in this firm Robert’s settled on. She doesn’t seem all that keen, especially since Carson doesn’t seem to know much about them at all. As he turns to go, he runs into Bunting, who reassures him she’s just there to say goodbye. Daisy comes in, all in a snit, and spits that Bunting’s leaving the school and the village because Tom won’t stand up to Robert. Oh, for God’s sake, is that what she told you? Carson warns Daisy not to say another word. Sarah chimes in that things aren’t as dire as Daisy says. She’s had an offer from a larger grammar school, so she’s taking a step up. Sarah asks Patmore to make sure Daisy keeps up her studies. In comes Hughes to ask what’s up and Patmore says Carson’s handing out investment advice and Sarah’s leaving. Sarah bids them goodbye and leaves. Hughes heads out and is intercepted by Thomas, who asks her who the guy with the sergeant is. Instead of telling him it’s none of his goddamn business, she says he’s a detective looking into Greene’s death.
Thomas: I sense there’s something going on here, and since I clearly don’t have enough to do, don’t give a shit that Anna’s the only person on this staff who’s been consistently nice to me, and I can’t seem to stop myself from causing trouble (mostly because I keep just getting rewarded for it) I think I’ll keep sniffing around.
Hughes: Maybe you should stay out of it and not make trouble. By the way, you look like shit, what’s your deal?
Thomas: Don’t you worry about me, I’m, fuelled by evil
As they get ready for dinner, Cora tells Robert that Bricker’s coming back to photograph their painting for his book. Robert whines a bit and stamps his feet and Cora tells him to just suck it up, because this could add value to said painting.
Robert: I’m not forbidding you from inviting him
Cora: Gee, thanks for that.
Daisy lies in wait for Tom to come down for dinner and grabs him as soon as he passes by. He asks her what’s up and Daisy hisses that he’s making the biggest mistake of his life. ‘Is this about Miss Bunting, by any chance?’ he asks her. Daisy insists that Sarah’s an extraordinary person (oh? How do you figure? We’ve seen nothing to indicate that), as well as clever and kind. Tom agrees, for some reason. Daisy tells him that she can tell Sarah loves him (???) and that people like Tom and Sarah and Daisy are the future, whereas the others are the past. Tom can definitely hear Sarah’s influence there. Seriously. Before this can get even more absurd, Carson comes along and shoos Daisy away.
At dinner, Rose asks if anyone’s heard of Atticus. They have not, but it seems he’s from a new money family that bought an estate in the neighbourhood recently. Violet notes that Thomas is looking peaky but Thomas reassures them he’s all good. Talk turns to the cocktail party on Friday, which the younger set (and Cora) are pretty excited for. Rosamond playfully tells her brother that someone will say he’s not doing things properly, and Edith immediately asks if he cares what people think. Robert says he does, because he doesn’t want to go putting people’s backs up. Tom breaks in to ask why they need to adhere to these customs and rituals and Violet explains that, without them, we’d all be living like Essex nudists. Isobel disagrees, saying that manners and tradition shouldn’t control them. Edith spitefully says that there are more important things to worry about in the world than whether or not Carson’s offended by having to serve cocktails. Hey, Edith, simmer down. This is not about you. Mary sticks up for Carson, asking Edith what put him in the line of fire all of a sudden. Edith apologises and excuses herself. Cora asks Rosamond if Edith’s ok and Rosamond lies that she’s just a bit tired.
Patmore brings some tea to Hughes’s room and tells her about Carson’s advice, which she thinks sucks because she knows nothing about building. Hughes asks why she asked Carson’s advice in the first place. ‘Because he’s a man,’ Patmore replies, in a ‘duh’ voice. Oh, come on. Patmore has never seemed like the type to think a man’s brain is superior just because it’s fuelled by a Y chromosome. And this seems really strange considering the tension that’s been between them lately over Archie and the war memorial business. Patmore’s worried about hurting his feelings. Hughes eyerolls that men should worry about women’s feelings a quarter as much as women worry about men’s.
On their way upstairs, Mary notes that Tom’s rather quiet. He tells her he’s coming to a decision, and he just hopes it’s the right one. She advises him to do what’s best for him, not necessarily what’s best for the family. He tells her she’s much nicer than a lot of people realize.
Violet summons Rosamond to the dower house to find out what the deal is with Edith. Rosamond tries to dance out of the explanation, but we know Violet will get it out of her.
Edith, meanwhile, stakes out the Drewe house until she sees Mr Drewe come outside. She hurries over to him and says she has to see the girl, but Mr Drewe has now had it up to here with this nonsense. He shortly tells her it was a huge mistake to bring her aunt by, because now his wife is seriously wound up and insisting that Edith stay away permanently, or they’ll give up the farm and move away. Edith, not quite grasping how this whole ‘adoption’ thing works, asks what will happen to Marigold and Drewe tells her, in the voice you usually use with an idiot, that Marigold would come with them because she’s supposed to be their kid. He says he’s sorry things have worked out this way, but he can’t see any way around it.
Violet’s got Clarkson, Isobel, and Merton for lunch. Merton and Clarkson chat a little bit about medical matters. Sprat announces lunch and Violet tells him to cheer up before informing the others that the maid has, in fact, given notice. Isobel confirms that Sprat hates change. Merton, on the other hand, loves it. He finds it exciting. As he and Isobel go into the dining room, Clarkson whispers to Violet that they actually seem really well suited, and she agrees.
Bates finds Anna in the boot room and asks what the inspector asked. She says he wanted to know if she liked Greene and why Greene didn’t like Bates. Bates promises that nothing bad will ever happen to her again. He’ll protect her so she and he can sit by the fire surrounded by sprats. She wonders if it’ll really happen and he swears it will.
Sarah’s packing up to go, and Tom comes by to say goodbye, explaining that Daisy told him she was leaving. Sarah says she hopes Tom will miss her a little and he reassures her he’ll miss her a lot. She tells him that she loved him and could have loved him more if he let her. Say what? In what way was he not letting you? By asking you to please observe basic manners while you’re in his father-in-law’s home? Tom says he’s glad he met her, because she reminded him of who he is and he’s grateful. He leans forward and kisses her and she says she wishes they’d met before he ever knew ‘them.’ Tom packs her into the car to go to the station and they share one last, lingering look before she drives off.
Let’s hope that’s the last we see of her, because she was a truly dreadful character. And she’s indicative of a larger problem with this show: Julian Fellowes desperately needs help in the writers’ room, because he keeps bunging in characters like this, who are tossed in just to serve a single purpose or represent a single (tired) trope and never allowed to be living, breathing people, so we never actually care about them. Inevitably, they wind up being either too boring to be memorable or they’re ridiculous caricatures. Lavinia was one of these characters. So was Carlisle. And I’d argue that Thomas is one too. They never develop, they never feel real, they’re just there to cause some bit of tension. But then, at some point, we’re told that we should care about these people. No, no, look, Sarah’s kind and awesome! She made Daisy understand maths and become interested in the Glorious Revolution! Lavinia was sweet and died tragically! Thomas is gay! None of those things are character development. And because we don’t give a crap about any of these people, we aren’t invested in their romances, departures, or deaths. If Thomas fell down a well and died in the next episode, I’d seriously shrug and just move on, because he’s just a cartoon villain anyway (like Vera Bates!). And this maddens me, because it’s just lazy writing. It wouldn’t be that hard to give these characters a bit of nuance. He’s managed to do it with others. He just can’t be bothered all the time, so instead he relies on simply telling us that we must care now, and that pisses me off, because it’s insulting to the audience. I’ll decide whom I care about, thank you very much. And I don’t care about Sarah.
Bricker arrives and is greeted by Cora just as Robert’s coming down the stairs, ready to go to his dinner.
Robert: Sorry, I’ve gotta go. I’ll be gone all night, mmmkay? Try not to flirt with Isis while I’m away.
Once he’s away, Bricker comments that he’s starting to feel rather at home at Downton. Cora reassures him that he’s most welcome, as long as he behaves.
Atticus goes back to the church to see Rose. He’s adorable, she’s kind of adorable, they’re both adorable. See, I kind of care about him. He seems nice and charming and it’s about time Rose had something to do this season. Rose introduces him to Kuragin, who sits down to play chess with one of his friends. Rose tells them that Atticus’s family started a new life in England, just as the refugees are, and at this point Atticus starts to look really uncomfortable. Kuragin’s friend asks where Atticus’s family came from and Rose announces they’re from Odessa and came over in 1859, with others following in 1871. The friend (Nikolai) gets seriously pissed off, gets up, snarls that they’re not Russian at all, and stomps off. Kuragin is apologetic as he follows. Rose is confused. Atticus explains that they’re Jewish and fled the country because of the pogroms. Rose doesn’t see what Atticus being Jewish has to do with anything and Atticus hesitantly smiles, clearly relieved she didn’t immediately make the sign of the cross and run away or something. He asks if he can take her out to dinner when she’s next in London, and while she clearly wants to say, ‘oh, yes, please! What’re you doing tonight?’ she plays it cool and says ‘maybe.’
Speaking of dinners in London, Mary meets Blake, who tells her he’s asked a friend to join them. And that friend is…Mabel Lane Fox, who’s as unpleasantly surprised to see Mary as Mary is to see her. ‘What’s your plan?’ Mabel asks Blake. ‘That we all hold hands and take a house by the sea together?’ Ha! I like this girl.
Back at Downton, Baxter tells Thomas he has to stop whatever the hell he’s doing, because he’s clearly killing himself. He gasps that she can’t boss him around. Molesley catches her as Thomas heads upstairs and asks if, now that Cora knows the whole story, he can hear it too?
In London, Blake has laid out his ingenious plan: Mary wants to dump Gil, so Mabel should just pick him up. Makes things nice and tidy, right? Wow, what a condescending asshole. Mabel is rightfully offended and sums it up perfectly: You seem to suggest I take the discarded leavings of Lady Mary Crawley, dust off the fluff, and put them on my own plate. Blake insists that she’s in love with Tony (which is a presumptuous thing for him to say, at the very least).
Mabel: All I know is that Tony broke off our engagement, which I did not deserve, because Mary Crawley crooked her little finger at him. Now you’re bored, you want someone else to play with, so to dry his tears and keep him occupied you toss him back to me.
A little harsh on Mary there, but close to true. Mary points out that this insulting and stupid notion isn’t her idea and Mabel flings back that it certainly isn’t hers either. Blake continues to make me hate him by informing Mabel that she’s cutting off her nose to spite her face. Are we supposed to like this jerk? Mabel, quite reasonably, gets up and leaves, advising him to choke on his dinner. Mary notes that this didn’t go well, but he’s unconcerned, seeing this as just a little stage play that they had to go through. I really, really hope Mabel sticks to her guns on this, because this whole thing is just shitty.
After dinner at Downton, Violet collects Edith and Rosamond for a word while Isobel asks after Sarah. Tom tells her that she left. Isobel’s sorry and turns her attention to Rose, asking about his young man. Rose says he’s off to London to start a new job, but she found him and his family unusual and interesting. She explains that they were driven out by the pogroms but have done well in England.
Violet and Rosamond double team Edith and tell her they have to take Marigold away from Mrs Drewe, who’s at ‘the point of explosion.’ Woah, woah, woah! ‘Get her away’? How? How would they take her away from the Drewes without explaining things to Mrs Drewe? And isn’t that what they’re trying to avoid here? They can’t just walk into her house and take the kid she’s been raising, that’s nuts! Oh, and what do they plan to do with this child? Dump her in a boarding school! Jesus, this little girl is a year old! Isn’t anyone here taking a brief second to step back and think of what’s in her best interests? She’s going to be taken away from the only parents she knows to be dumped in some institution somewhere? What the hell is wrong with these people? This is the stupidest, worst plan they could have possibly come up with.
Edith is horrified. As she listens to this, Cora comes in to tell them everyone else is going up to bed. I really wish Cora could get looped in here, because although I’ve given her a hard time over the years, I think we all have to admit that, when the going gets tough, Cora turns out to be pretty awesome.
Baxter has told Molesley all, and he, of course, views her as a victim rather than a perpetrator. Baxter thinks otherwise, but she says she’s learned never again to be controlled by someone else.
Carson is summoned to Hughes’s sitting room, where Patmore informs him she’s found a cottage to purchase. She plans to rent it out, and later she can take in lodgers. Carson is aghast that she’s not following his completely half-assed advice, so Hughes and Patmore reassure him that Patmore’s very grateful to him for giving Patmore the idea to invest in a piece of property, even if she didn’t follow that advice to the letter. I’m finding this insulting to both these women, that they need to prop up this man’s vanity in this way, when he couldn’t even really be bothered to give her sound advice in the first place.
That night, Bricker waits until Baxter leaves Cora’s room, and then goes in himself. Cora tells him he has to leave immediately.
And, of course, Robert comes home early.
Upstairs, Cora keeps telling Bricker to get the hell out of her room, but since we can’t have a single man left on this show that we can actually respect, he ignores her and keeps insisting that they have feelings that they must act on. Must!
Robert comes upstairs and enters his bedroom, only to find another man in there. He shortly explains that the dinner ended early and so he came home and so sorry if that was a disappointment. Cora reassures him that it wasn’t, and Bricker, to his credit, quickly adds that he’s not there at Cora’s invitation. Robert orders him to leave, but when Bricker tries to go, Robert childishly blocks the door. Bricker accuses him of ignoring his fabulous wife and Robert actually pimp-slaps him and starts a noisy tussle while Cora shouts at him to stop. Luckily, Edith comes along to ask if everything’s all right, and as Cora sends her away, the men simmer down. Bricker returns to his own room, dejected, and Robert goes off to sleep in the dressing room.
Carson gives everyone a quick rundown of the cocktail party plans the next morning over breakfast before hurrying everyone on their way so they can start setting up. Thomas asks Anna if she’s heard anymore from the policeman and she says no. She leaves and Bates asks Thomas why he keeps pestering her with this.
Thomas: Because I’m the designated bad guy, and even though I whimpered a few weeks ago about wanting others to like me, I didn’t actually mean it, because growing and developing in any way would be waaay too hard and realistic. So I’m just the exact same character I was back in series one, and it was already tiresome back then.
Carpets are rolled up and flower arrangements placed as Bricker departs. Just before he climbs into the car, he glances up at a window, where Cora stands, watching him.
Later, cocktails are served as guests are announced and Cora tries to joke and chat with her husband, who silently stews and is upset with her for…no reason at all, really.
Violet, meanwhile, is still trying to sell Edith on this horrible, horrible plan, which Edith is understandably not on board with. She wonders if she can just take Marigold to London with her, or find some other way, but Violet insists there is no other way. Isobel and Merton arrive together and Violet call them ‘Cousin Isobel and her follower.’ Isobel accepts a drink and confesses she twisted her ankle on her way out of the car, as she hobbles off to have a seat. Violet notices the tension between Cora and Robert, because that marital tension radar of hers is finely tuned.
Patmore is just going off to bed when Edith comes down to use Carson’s phone. Patmore bids her goodnight and Edith places a trunk call to London.