THE DOWNTON ABBEY DISH – Downton Abbey Season 3 Recap: Episode 6 (aired 2/10/13)

The nation breathes a collective sigh of relief as our erstwhile hero Mr. Bates comes home. There will be no more prison sewing circles, no more burlap cigarette smuggling, and who knows…you might be able to get one of those ‘Free Bates’ t-shirts on clearance…

Free at last! Reunited And It Feels So Good
Bates is released into the loving arms of the long-suffering Anna and our long, national nightmare is over. Will this be a happily ever after? Of course it won’t. In a recent interview Julian Fellowes said “Nothing is harder to dramatize than happiness…When two people are happy, that’s it," he said, “That’s why in the old movies, they don’t kiss and marry in the middle – they kiss and marry at the end, because in a way that’s it." Translation: If these heirs and heiresses didn’t have their tsurises, we’d have no story and Downton Abbey would have been a travelogue that ended after an hour in Season 1. But not to worry—for now we’ll be happy and we won’t borrow trouble. Trouble will find us soon enough and in the meantime, as Anna & Bates are driven home, we are treated to a gorgeous panorama shot of Downton from a vantage point we’ve not yet seen: The road at the top of the hill. Simply glorious! So Bates is back, baby, and the first two post-prison issues to address (aside from learning his and Anna’s new theme music?)— where to live and what to do. Lord Grantham seems happy to see him, though he quickly leaves him standing in the hall as he scuttles off to do whatever it is the idle rich rush off to do—but not without first promising him a vacation, a cottage and a job. Bates thinks replacing Thomas is sweet revenge, not realizing that the person most responsible for his recent troubles (i.e. incarceration) is, in fact, O’Brien. Bates is happy to see Thomas go until he realizes he is being unjustly given the bum’s rush—then the old noble Bates re-emerges. Against Anna’s wishes they lure O’Brien to their newly redecorated abode for tea and arm twisting, under the guise of borrowing their Ikea catalogue. Then after she leaves they (smartly) smudge the place to clear their chi with some sage that Shirley MacLaine left behind. But before she goes, they try to reason with her about Thomas, but she’s having none of it. There is no one more self-righteous than a hypocrite. But, as they used to say, if you want to get someone’s attention, whisper – and what did Bates whisper in O’Brien’s ear? The very deliciously cryptic (to them) ‘Her Ladyship’s soap’. So the secret has bubbled up at last. They don’t know what it means but it’s out there, and given the way Anna shares things with Mary, will they put two and two together? With Anna’s newfound detective skills it’s just a matter of time, isn’t it? Will O’Brien be caught in a lather? I must say it was fun to see her terrified, and she must know that it was Thomas who gave her away. What will she do now to try and keep him from spilling more?

Doctors Appointment of the Magi: Love is Strange
This week Lady Mary Crawley gave her granny a run for the money in the quotable department when she said, ‘You’ll make me untidy.’ While that kind of talk might be a turn-on for some guys, it’s kind-of tough to make babies when your wife comes to bed in a hazmat suit. One supposes it doesn’t help that they are under a lot of pressure to produce a boy, (look at what that pressure did to Anne Boleyn), and it also doesn’t help that Lady Mary cannot talk about her lady bits with her husband; but they are both quietly panicking and secretly running to London to see a specialist. And who do they discover there? Each other! What are the odds? They’re told they’ll be up the duff within six months, and while we have learned not to have any faith in any of the doctors who turn up here, now at least we know why Mary has been putting Matthew off. And speaking of big babies, the ever-sympathetic Lord Grantham who’s only interest (aside from cricket) is getting this succession business on the road, is still stalking off in a snit whenever Matthew tries talk about the running of the estate. While the bromantic Branson and Matthew look to be planning the Normandy invasion in the drawing room, Lord Grantham, instead, wants to invest with this Ponzi fellow who promises to double your pleasure, double your fun in ninety days. What could possibly go wrong? And why not? Matthew’s plan is too much like work. Why should someone ordained by God have to work when they should just be able to sit back and have someone hand them a bag of cash whenever they need it? To add insult to injury, Robert had to suffer the indignity of attending baby Sybil’s christening when Tom deftly plays the guilt card. But not to worry Dowager and Lord Archie Bunker! As a photographer familiar with such things, I can tell you there was no film holder in that camera the photographer was using to make the family pictures at the christening, so there will be no record of you posing with Father Dominic! A small detail. A small comfort. Tom does eventually talk some sense into a dumbstruck Lord Grantham when he rhapsodizes about how each person who marries, or is born, into the family needs to avail it of their unique gifts: And a chauffer shall lead them. Speaking of leading, I do not have the slightest clue what went on with that cricket game, do you? At first I thought that PBS should have preceded this episode with a special about cricket, but then I searched online for an explanation and found this video on YouTube featuring a 10 year old boy trying to explain it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h-ux22wi9Y. I still have no clue. All I know is there was no joy in Mudville with Casey Molesley at the bat, it seems that the Yankees could use Branson in the outfield, and given the look of our Three Musketeers at the end, the house finally won one (but that’s only a guess).

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That Girl: You’re Gonna Make it After All
Despite the fact that Lord Grantham doesn’t want anyone to encourage her, and her granny is encouraging her a little too much (with the argument that maybe she should be allowed a career because she isn’t marriage material), Lady Edith is trying to make her mark. She has a new hairdo, she finally stopped dressing like her mother, and after her trips to London, she has a newfound spring in her step. Running up the stairs to get changed for dinner, one could easily mistake Edith for Carrie Bradshaw running up the steps of her Perry Street brownstone. Is there a Mr. Big in her future as well? Mm…not so fast. This is Edith we are talking about so, no doubt, even new and improved she is still as much Murphy as Bradshaw. The old Edith is still in there, and rises up whenever Mary is in the vicinity (or merely mentioned). Mary is her Niagara Falls. When Mr. Editor Charming complimented her on her glamorous sister, she just about ground her teeth down to little nubs. Worse, married Mary isn’t content to have breakfast in bed; now she has stolen Anna from her as well, leaving Edith to dress herself (how very uncivilized!) And, of course, her losing streak with men continues. Turns out this flirty, jolly nice editor is married. True, he has a story. It’s the old ‘my wife’s in an asylum’ excuse. Oh, that one. Is this even true, or is this just story that gullible mummy-loving Edith will fall for, only to have her heart broken yet again? And given that he is married, a broken heart could be just the start. Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was poor Edith who ended up with a public scandal of Pamukian proportions? And speaking of which, whatever happened to Sir Rupert anyway? After his threats we never heard anything more from him. Can we assume he’s keeping Mary’s secret permanently? Will he return to haunt in the future? Sorry, here we are borrowing trouble again.

Downton Abbey 90210: Flap on, flap off, the Flapper
That cousin Rose (AKA Cousin Oliver) had trouble written all over her from the moment she stepped out of the car. But who could have ever imagined it would lead to Matthew, Edith and Aunt Rosamund taking a ride in the Tardis and stepping into a different world? Standing in that doorway, it was like the Crawleys had gone to Kellerman’s. That wasn’t the Grizzly Bear they were dancing. And there were black people! Finally! One could hear the cheering! And then they were gone as quickly as they came. And the married man dumb, spoiled Rose was dirty dancing with was neatly disposed of as well. My, people come and go so quickly here! And just like that Rose was shipped off to Siberia, or maybe Scotland. Please, do put her in a corner. Her departure leaves us with but one vexing question: Will we ever get to meet this “Shrimpy” we keep hearing about? Rose isn’t the only fallen woman the Dowager wants rid of. In the fallen department, no one has suffered as much as Ethel, but her redemption keeps hitting speed bumps – now the butcher’s wife refuses to serve her. And worse, just when we thought the Dowager surprised us with her pudding-induced tolerance, she revoked the surprise by plotting to wipe notorious Ethel from the village. But does Violet also have some sympathy for Ethel? Sometimes it looks as if she does. And it seems we were right about Mrs. Bryant; she has a conscience, so Ethel prepares to move to another position near little Charlie. Will this be a happily ever after for Ethel? What have we learned Downtonians? If Ethel stays, she will have tsuris written into her – but she’s leaving, which means there is a chance she might be happy.

Doubting Thomas: He’s here, he’s queer, get used to it!
O’Brien gleefully stirs the cauldron with Thomas and JimmyJames, knowing full well what she is steering them into. True, the sneaking into the bedroom was not exactly a smooth move (clearly he’d forgotten how that went for Pamuk), and he could have at least woken Jimmy up first before he planted one on him (or was he awake before Alfred barged in? It was hard to tell), but why is Jimmy so contra mundi? Why does someone that good looking think the world is against him? Sorry, but I think he doth protest too much (though, given the times, one can understand why). But that awkward post-kiss attempt to compliment to ‘tasty’ Ivy pretty much made my Gaydar go ‘ping’. I can’t help but think there will be more to this story. But as for now, as O’Brien tries to have her old pal hanged, drawn and quartered, Jimmy is falling in line. Fortunately Carson is, in his own way, sympathetic to a degree. I’m not sure why he could be blackmailed by Jimmy. Why couldn’t he have just given Thomas a reference but told Jimmy he didn’t? But it is a testament to the yarn-spinning abilities of Lord Fellowes that we now feel sympathy, and root for, this person who was so despised as evil incarnate for the first two seasons. When Thomas, in a moment of simple dignity, says, ‘I’m not foul, Mr. Carson. I’m not like you but I’m not foul’ he speaks from across the decades. Fifty years before Stonewall, what Thomas was faced with in being outed was frightening—prison, commitment to a mental institution, lobotomy, ruin. But yet he doesn’t deny who he is. While it’s still not perfect, the more free society we have today stands on the shoulders of people like Thomas who took quiet stands despite the costs. When he tells Bates he envies him we can see the loneliness in Thomas. Maybe we have been wrong about Thomas all along. Maybe he was never as evil as we thought. Maybe he was only lonely and desperate for companionship and the only friendly hand extended was O’Brien’s. She was always the one with all the ideas. He was not twisted by nature into something foul, but maybe he was twisted by O’Brien into the Thomas we first met, the most evil-looking smoker ever committed to film. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems that her friend Thomas became disposable once she had family there at Downton. And her nephew Alfred is a little creep, isn’t he? Anyone who watches EastEnders knows, you don’t grass to the Old Bill, but Alfred calls 911 to report the stolen kiss. That’s not cricket! Thankfully Thomas is good with the bat, and Lord Grantham and Carson are able to evade the cops like a couple of veteran thieves, humiliating Alfred in the process. But it’s Carson who gets the biggest shock when Lord Grantham goes off-script and promotes JimmyJames. On the Carson’s Shocked Expression Scale I’d give it four toasters (our highest rating).

Dowager Countessdown

With this being a double-episode, it was incredibly tough to narrow the Countessdown down to the top six (and impossible to cut it to five). Though, number one was easy: It’s my mantra…

6. ‘And is poor Ethel to be the cudgel with which you fight your foes?’

5. ‘I knew you wouldn’t agree. I know how you hate facing facts.’

4. ‘You cannot want your only grandchild to grow up in a garage with that drunken gorilla.’

3. ‘You’ve been reading those Communist newspapers again.’

2. ‘Edith isn’t getting any younger. Perhaps she isn’t cut out for domestic life.’

1. ‘That is an easy caveat to accept because I’m never wrong.’

I know I’m leaving out some doozies here. Are there any you’d like to add?

Downton Dish is written by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper.

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