Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 8 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | February 19, 2016

Golly gumdrops! I hope you all had a box of Kleenex at the ready as you watched this episode, because if you didn’t start blubbing uncontrollably when Mary was talking to Matthew at his grave, and that Mary and Matthew music started playing, then you are as cold and unfeeling as (the public) Lady Mary.

That scene and the last scene with Edith and the children playing by Sybil’s grave were lovely ways to bring both Matthew and Sybil in for the final season. Whenever a show reaches back to give a nod to its history, I think it shows a great respect for the audience, and that is exactly what Lord Fellowes has done, once again in this episode.

But back to the living: Another day at Downton, another disaster around the dining table. If I were living in that house, I think I’d take a tray in my room rather than brave the nightmare of recrimination and regret that follows every single meal in that dining room. No wonder they eat like birds. And this episode also saw Tom and Bertie act out a PBS pledge break with sock puppets. At least I think that’s what it was. I could be wrong.

The House of the Rising Sun: Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi, Ce Soir?:

Oh god, it’s Sgt. Willis at the back door. That’s never a good sign. For Scotland Yard, it seems all roads lead back to Downton and the Crawley Crime syndicate. If a bird falls out of a tree in Thirsk, Sgt Willis heads to Downton to round up the usual suspects. This time he’s got notorious frolicker Mrs. Patmore in his sites. Poor Mrs. Patmore: All she wanted to do was open a simple bed and breakfast to have some security for her golden years (or for whenever Lord Grantham goes broke again), and it all went pear-shaped thanks to an adulterous couple playing doctor. You just can’t trust those respectable types. Maybe the great seer, soothsayer, and sage, Mr. Carson, was right all along, and she should have just bought stock in some random construction company and kept the certificates in a mayonnaise jar on the back porch. But she didn’t, and now she now stands accused of running a house of ill repute. Yes, professional virgin, Beryl Patmore: Cross and red-faced old cook by day, Lady Marmalade by night. Who knew? She has caused a brouhaha in the village (emphasis on the ha-ha).

In times of crisis it’s always good to know your friends have got your back, or at least they have got a good laugh at your expense, behind your back, at the sheer comedy of your misfortune and financial ruin. Upstairs or down, this was the best laugh they’ve all had in ages. Not so funny: all of Hotel Patmore’s bookings have been cancelled and the paparazzi are after her. She screams the house down (at her niece) in frustration, but Mrs. Hughes has a solution: “Let’s have tea!” Tea, for Brits, is what duct tape is for Americans; it solves all manner of problems. And speaking of tea, once they all stop laughing at her impending ruin, Aunt Rosamund suggests that the family help Mrs. Patmore by taking a field trip to her den of iniquity for tea, to give the premises their noble seal of approval. See? Behold the power of tea. Naturally, Carson doesn’t like the idea of Lords and Ladies going to a bawdy house and guzzling dainties (which sounds kind of dirty when he says it, am I right?) But Lord Funk and Lady Wagnall are disobeying him; they are throwing caution to the wind and going anyway. The jaunt was a delicious success and it gives Lord Grantham an idea for a new investment opportunity that can’t miss: He is going all in on Canadian bawdy houses. What could possibly go wrong?

In other kitchen news, Daisy has passed all her exams with flying colors! She can now while away the hours conferring with more than flour; she can talk about isosceles triangles, because she has got her brains. For Daisy, who’s spent half her life toiling away in a basement and living in an attic, the door to a future of her choosing just swung wide open. Will it take her far from Downton? How are you going to keep her down on the farm now that she’s seen what she can do if she sets her mind to it.

Who’s Sorry Now: Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings:

Even though Mary broke up with Snappy Talbot, neither he nor Tom will take that “get lost” as her final answer. Tom continues to question the divine right of Lady Mary and she’s not having it. Whenever she says she doesn’t mean to pull rank, you can bet she means to pull rank. She claims that he doesn’t understand their way of life (despite the fact that he’s been part of it for thirteen years), that whoever she marries will be joining the family show (who are they, the Von Trapps?), and the wrong person will be poison (like she is with her sister). Is Mary pulling rank or is she just hiding behind it? When Tom tells her, upon questioning, that the Marigold secret was not his to tell, Mary accuses him of not being on her side, because everyone must choose sides. Mary is not merely unhappy, she is bitter and angry and penned in, pacing like an animal in a cage and in a serious, dark funk.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it looks like all is back to normal with Mary and her therapist Anna. Whatever suspicions and questions Mary had in her mind after finding out about Marigold are gone and she and Anna are back to braiding each others hair, making crank calls to boys and giggling away. Bates tells Anna that her Mary is a bit of a bully. Anna agrees, but says there is another side to her, and Snappy sees it, like she sees it—and she was wrong, Snappy Henry is right for Mary. And speaking of giggling, did you hear the one about Mrs. Patmore’s dreams of a B&B going up in smoke? To be fair, Anna was just thrilled Sgt Willis wasn’t there for her or Bates, but still. “Speaking of laugh riots, Lord Hexham just died. He’s the guy you didn’t meet because you were still languishing in Folsom Prison, hahahahaha! Oh my god one does crack oneself up!” Mary is a tad too gleeful at the prospect that Edith’s romance will crash and burn like hers—and wait till she hears Edith’s big news!

Against Mary’s wishes, Tom (who seems to talk to Snappy more than Mary does) invites Talbot to Downton, using the ruse of pretending he just happens to be passing by. Luckily, Snappy Talbot never goes anywhere without a dinner jacket in his glove compartment. And he’ll need that jacket as Mary is throwing nothing but frosty looks in his direction. Cora invites him to stay, making Mary even angrier still, but Cora insists that his only crime is to love her (and as soon as Sgt Willis is finished with Madam Patmore’s Speakeasy he will be dropping a butterfly net on him and taking him to a padded cell, but in the mean time he is invited to stay). Mary is at loose ends. She has held her emotions in, under her cool facade, for so long that now she cannot control them at all. They are flying out of her in every direction.

Despite telling him to get lost, the next morning she is upset to come down to find Snappy gone. It was like that time she decided to take Anthony Strallan off Edith with talk of tractors, just for sport, and was disappointed that Matthew had left the building in the interim, causing Robert to say that Mary thinks she put down a toy and it will still be there when she gets back. Some things never change. But how she lashes out now is unforgivable. Interesting that she sent Carson out of the room before she went in for the kill. Is that because she didn’t want him to see what she was about to do? I’m not a lawyer, but I think this shows a premeditation, amiright? She knew she was going to say something, she was just waiting for the opening; Edith gave it to her and she lowered the blade as coldly as any executioner. Edith was in line for a Marchioness’ coronet, a mother-in-law from hell, and the love of a soul mate. Then, just like that, it was bye-bye Bertie. And that’s the way to do it!

As disgusted as Tom was with Mary’s actions, he saw what was underneath, and he knew there was only one person who could fix this mess: It’s Super Granny to the rescue! All Tom had to do was call and Violet made that cruise ship turn around. My guess is the Captain is still curled up in the corner in the fetal position. But now granny is back and she wants the 411. Mary gives the answers she thinks Violet will find important, that Henry has no fortune, that he’ll be outranked by his step-son, it is a recipe for disaster, yadda, yadda, yadda. And not for the first time, Mary is surprised at Violet’s response: She reminds her that Tony the Tiger had everything on paper, and where did that get him? Nowhere but used and tossed into Mrs. Patmore’s scrap bucket like all the rest of Mary’s castoffs, that those material things are not the most important: Her heart is. Through tears, Mary finally admits what is behind it all: She cannot be a crash widow again. She’s terrified. She can’t do it. Violet advises her to believe in love, to make peace with her sister and make peace with herself. The first part will be tricky, the second maybe easier. She immediately sends up the Bat Signal and summons Talbot.

But before Snappy arrives, Mary goes to visit Matthew to ask his forgiveness. Matthew also saw that other side to Mary. Remember her saying she wanted to be his version of Mary for all eternity. Now she will go on to become someone else’s Mary, but she wants him to know that no matter what, she will always love him. Lord Grantham should have bought stock in Kleenex before this episode. When Snappy arrives, Mary tells him that she decided that they could be happy together, that she can’t see herself lovin’ nobody but him for all her life. Carson walks in, clutches his pearls, and faints into a heap. No matter. As it turns out, Snappy goes everywhere with not just a dinner jacket, but with a marriage license as well. There’s no time to wait; the wedding is on Saturday. At the church, Mr. Travis never asked if anyone knew of any just cause why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, but expecting that he would, The Dowager sat on Edith and Carson set up a trip wire in the aisle, should any random chambermaids decide to rush forward. Mission accomplished.

Leaving On a Jet Plane: The Goodbye Girl:

There’s no place like home. Unless you’re Lady Edith — then home is a violation of the Geneva Convention, a place that crushes your dreams and grinds you into the dirt with its boot heel (largely because of your wicked witch of a sister). If we have to pin an exact date on when Edith’s Glorious Evolution began, it would have to be the day Sir Anthony took off running. The aftermath of that particular heartbreak caused Edith to become an accidental feminist, a pragmatist who ended up with a much more interesting life than if she had become the old man’s drudge she wanted to be (or, at least, was willing to settle for).

Edith will always be an underdog at heart. She sought Bertie out at Brancaster after Atticus said they all felt sorry for him (we all saw that moment), maybe thinking there was a kindred spirit there, and there was. She thought he was a penniless estate agent and loved him anyway. But she had a problem: Marigold, a lovely little parting gift from the last contestant for her heart. After six seasons, Aunt Rosamund finally gives some good advice (so does Cora) but not realizing the clock is ticking away on time bomb Mary, Edith doesn’t listen. She should tell Bertie about Marigold but she dithers until it is too late.

And then it happened: Lord Hexham died while watching the young shirtless fishermen of Tangiers pull in their nets, skin glistening in the golden light. And who’da thunk it, Bertie is the heir. Well, isn’t this a turn-up? Imperious Mary, the one who always cared the most about all the aristocratic title malarky will be outranked by her nemesister, the lowly, unlucky Edith – if she marries Bertie. If. It’s sad we never got to meet Bertie’s gay cousin, the delicate and kind Lord Hexham, but never mind; Lord Wonka celebrates the death of Bertie’s beloved cousin and Edith marrying a copper bottomed Marquess; champers all around (but he forgot to say, knock wood, kine hora, pooh-pooh). Bertie is not copper-bottomed yet, Robert! Don’t count your chickens before they lay that golden egg. This is Edith we’re talking about here, the woman who can roll a pair of dice and hit thirteen. But wait, Bertie’s coming to settle things on his way to Tangiers. Let’s pause our gleeful celebration, rearrange our faces and pretend to be sad when Bertie arrives. We shall resume swinging from the chandeliers after a respectful pause. 3, 2, 1… OK, can we party now?

While Mary seethes, clenching fists of rage, hoping Bertie is only there to throw Edith over, Bertie hopes Edith will say yes so he can go off on his trek to settle his cousin’s affairs with her song in his heart as he prepares to go from a quiet life to being king of the county. What makes a king out of a slave? Courage. Bertie needs courage, and wants Edith to help him in his daunting new life. He pushes her to say yes. And then that fateful breakfast and Mary’s cold-hearted, premeditated attempt to finish Edith off for good. It’s bye-bye Bertie.

Edith has a “See ya Hubell” moment with Bertie. Before he goes, she wishes him well, such good luck, and that she’ll miss him most of all. As he walks away, she stands there watching him go, in the shadow of that gleaming house and that life that has been such a yoke around her neck. Have we seen the last of Bertie? Surely, while he is traveling on that long trip to Tangiers, all alone, he’ll be going over and over everything, every conversation they had, in his head. Then again, he’s a man, so maybe he won’t. But if he does, maybe he will realize that Edith was, in her own insecure and hesitant way, trying to tell him about Marigold all along. When she said her life wasn’t as simple as it used to be that’s what she meant but you cut her off before she could finish, Mr. Copper Bottom. Maybe he’ll realize that and return to her (knock wood, kinehora, pooh-pooh). Then again, suppose he never returns at all? Suppose he dies on whatever train, plane or automobile he’s on. I’m guessing that many other Downtonians are like me; ever since Matthew’s untimely splat, every time a character gets in a car (or any other mode of transportation), we think this is the end. Damn you Fellowes! Look what you’ve done to me!

The Thrilla in Manilla: Sucker Punch:

To entertain the nursery set, and teach them a bit about their family history, Tom and Bertie star in a pre-historic After School Special, using Punch and Judy puppets to dramatize the epic saga of those rock ’em, sock ’em Crawley sisters. Who new that just a day later Mary would unleash her flying monkeys in possibly the most cold and cruel way ever witnessed in that dining, turning Edith’s world to dust. O’Brien would be proud. Even Larry Grey would have said, “game, set, match, Lady Mary.” For no reason other than spite she left Edith no option but to admit the truth about Marigold in the most humiliating way possible. Bertie practically left skid marks. Edith flees to London but before she goes she tells Mary a few home truths of her own, including that she’s a bitch (that was a long time coming) and she would not give an inch for Mary’s excuses, saying, “I know you”, and “You want to have your cake and hate me too!” Even in the midst of all this mishegas, Edith made a little pun there. I like that about her. Edith shows that she is the bigger person and returns to Downton for Mary’s wedding, despite feeling the way that she does. Why? Because one day only they will remember Sybil or Carson or any of the others who had peopled their youth, “until finally, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.” No matter whether you are Team Mary or Team Edith, you got chocked up there. Admit it. Maybe we should all be neither Team Edith or Team Mary; maybe we should all just be Team Crawley. And that’s very important because people who remember the people who peopled are the luckiest people.

Banana Split: Me and Mrs. Jones:

Editor Charming didn’t just leave Edith with Marigold, he left her with a London life that has become her escape valve. It also gives us this week’s understatement of the year: “Your sister hasn’t been helpful!” Yes, very perceptive, Madam Editor. That’s why you get paid the big bucks. Has Edith told her editor about Marigold? Has Madam Editor become for Edith what Anna is for Mary? Either way, right now they’ve got bigger fish to fry: The case of the mysterious Cassandra Jones, agony aunt, The Lady’s version of Dear Abby. Who is she? Where did she come from? Why did they assume right from the start that she wasn’t who she claimed to be? I don’t know. All I know is that Miss Jones, this font of knowledge and advice, is none other than Mr. Sprat. What will the Dowager say when she hears about this?

FYI: The Aristocrats:

According to Debretts, Carson’s go-to reference book on all things fine and snooty, a Marquess ranks over an Earl, but under a Duke. A Marquess is also more rare than an Earl. While there are 191 Earls, there are just 34 Marquesses, and 24 Dukes. And interesting to note: If there are no male heirs the titles become extinct, as some have.

To Sir With Love: Both Sides Now:

Molesley has got his first assignment: teaching the ruthless village munchkins on day release from a juvenile facility. He’s nervous. Smelling fear, these feral children ignore his efforts to discuss the Civil War and instead uncivilly pelt him with wooden rulers and all manner of blunt objects. Then they lock him in the closet and steal his lunch money. He returns to Downton shaken. The problem is, Molesley feels like a fraud standing there teaching, when he has spent his life as a servant, fetching and carrying; and more importantly, he fears the judgment when his secret is discovered. He’s not the toff they think he is. But he doesn’t give up. To quote another Underdog, “If at first you fail your deed, try again till you succeed.” He returns to the scene of the crime and at Baxter’s urging, tells children his own story as a lesson on how education can give them more opportunities than he had. As it turns out, the thing he feared the most, that they would find out he was a servant, became his big breakthrough. His story and sincerity got their attention, and he knows just what to do with it. Even Daisy, who crept in and hid under a desk to listen was impressed and her report of his spellbinding classroom performance causes everyone in the servant’s hall to break into a spontaneous rendition of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Bates is right, Molesley is a kind man, and it’s nice seeing kindness rewarded. Of course, Carson may see it another way, or not. We can’t be sure. “Are we going to lose you to the groves of academe?” sounds like an insult. Curmudgeonly Carson can do that. Carson can say, “You have been nominated for a Nobel Prize” with such a tone of disdain that it sounds like he’s accusing you of grand larceny.

I Don’t Know Why, I Just Do: It’s a Wonderful Life:

At this point in time, it seems like searching for a job in service is like playing musical chairs: at random intervals the music stops and a place gets taken away. Unlike (seemingly) everyone else downstairs, Thomas has never made plans to do anything in any other field, and as he receives yet another rejection letter, his funk turns ever more blue — and with no one to understand silly old him, he feels ever more alone. When Bertie speaks of his cousin Peter and describes him as delicate and artistic, we see a look of recognition in Thomas. He turns to drastic measures; he climbs into the bathtub and slits his wrists, but is saved just in time because Baxter’s spider-sense alerted her to danger.

When Carson whispers the news to Robert and he exclaims that Thomas cut his wrists, there was a look on Mary’s face that made me wonder if there had been times when she was so low she had considered an exit strategy herself. It was probably just as much to point out that she’s not the only bad guy in the room, whose actions have caused severe consequences, as to defend Thomas, when she said, “Do you still think dismissing Barrow was a useful saving?” Shocked Lord Grantham replied, “that was below the belt, even for you.” Even for you. Ouch. That “even for you” left a mark.

In an act of kindness, Mary brings Master George to visit hobby horse buddy Mr. Barrow. And in a moment of self-awareness, Thomas admits that he’s done horrible things and he doesn’t know why he does them. In making that confession he finds a kindred spirit in Mary who’s just been thinking the same thing about herself. Without thinking Thomas went a step too far, thinking it would end his problems; not realizing that committing suicide doesn’t end your problems, it only transfers your problems and burdens onto others. If Thomas had gotten a visit from Clarence, I’m not sure what he’d make of him. It would surely be a mixed bag, like for most people – even George Bailey. He did plot against Bates and conspired with O’Brien, but he also saved Edith from the fire and (accidentally, self-servingly) saved Sybbie from that abusive nanny. It would be a shame to throw it all away. In his hour of need, his colleagues who never seemed to like him much do close ranks to protect him. Maybe he could have developed friendships with them all along if he gave them the chance. Maybe he still can. For his part, Carson feels guilty for tormenting him over his job loss and asks a receptive Lord On Second Thought if Thomas can keep his job after all. Carson admits his own failing in not crediting him with having any feelings, and they agree that no man is an island, but if Thomas were an island it would be Key West.

But what would they have told Master George if Thomas had succeeded in his suicide attempt and died? That he went to live on a farm? And Mary and George’s visit to Thomas’ room made me wonder, at what age would the children start to ask why some of the people in the house live in the attic while they live in splendor? At some point the kids have got to question the setup, don’t you think?

High Horse of a Different Color: Sister Sledgehammer:

With Mary’s wedding done and dusted, hopefully Tom’s days of playing Dolly Levi have come to a close, for his sake, because I don’t think his nerves can take much more of this. He’s at yet another Crawley shindig without a plus one. Living with the Crawley sisters has got him too traumatized to date at all. He’s got PCSD (Post-Crawley Stress Disorder). He may be Snappy Talbot’s best man, but in spirit he is Mary’s maid of honor. All this time he has, essentially, been Sybil: He has played the same role within the Crawley family that Sybil did. He can be a shoulder for Edith, and he can speak truth to Mary and get away with it (like few can). She can’t pull rank on him because he doesn’t care about all that (just like Sybil). But he can’t be a sister forever. At some point he’s got to reclaim his man card and look for companionship (and, hello, romance!) elsewhere. If Snappy really wants to pay Tom back, he can do so by finding someone, anyone (at this point), for him.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Soul Train:

Lord Merton thinks future daughter-in-law Miss Amelia Cruikshank is a kind and gentle soul. He also thinks the moon is made of green cheese and that Santa Claus really does know if he’s been naughty or nice. It’s sweet, really. I’m not saying Dickie is gullible, but if you’ve got a bridge to sell, I’d say he’s your first phone call (Lord Grantham second). He practically has “mug” tattooed on his forehead. He truly believes that Miss Amelia is acting as peacemaker on his behalf when, in fact, she cares not a jot about any peace other than the piece of the estate she can con Lord Merton out of. Even though Isobel doesn’t want to wade into the swamp to marry Dickie, she does care for him, and when she meets Miss Amelia for tea, it is with the full knowledge of what the Dowager Detective uncovered. Isobel lays it on the line; she will not rekindle Dickie’s pilot light unless Miss Amelia brings her the broomstick of Larry Grey. She clearly wants Larry to eat crow (don’t we all?) The ball is now in Larry’s court and only he can play it. It looks like the stage has been well and truly set for an epic show down of some sort. If it is, and Larry is on the losing end, it will be quite satisfying. Indeed. Across these six seasons, the only character I can think of who has been as vile a creature as Larry Grey is Mr. Green. Maybe Mr. Grey should start looking both ways before he crosses the street. Or maybe not. If someone were to give karma a Piccadilly push in his direction I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Would you?

The Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. A good butler should not need to be told.
  2. You are the only woman I know who likes to think herself cold and selfish and grand. Most of us spend our lives trying to hide it.
  3. Brilliant careers, rich lives are seldom led without just an element of love.
  4. Makes peace with your sister and then make peace with yourself.
  5. I believe in love.

OK, kids. Just ONE MORE all too brief episode of the gloriously delicious Downton Abbey to go and then it’s into the history books. Sigh. If you are like me, I know you are hoping that the very last episode ends with a closely-guarded surprise announcement that there’s going to be a Season 7 after all. I know, but what can I say: I’m a cock-eyed optimist just like Dickie Merton (minus the sociopathic sons).

And speaking of kids, does anyone else think that in about nine months (or maybe sooner) we will see newborn babies being named Tiaa, after Lord Puppy Love’s new dog? I’m not sure if all those baby Tiaas will require wicker basket-flavored baby food, but that’s a detail for another day.