Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 2 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | January 10, 2016

We begin this episode with the Breakfast Ballet; the downstairs ensemble gracefully, wordlessly, preparing the breakfast trays for the upstairs audience like a well-rehearsed and choreographed troupe. What a shame it would be to break up this band.

A bicycle rides up to the house, the newspaper is ironed, when Molesley asks to borrow soda from Mrs. Patmore, she replies “Borrow? So you’ll give it back?” These are all things reminiscent of the very first episode. Since there is never anything that is a throwaway in Julian Fellowes’ world, one supposes that these call backs to episode one are here to show that even with all the changes, there are some things that remain constant. But here is something very different: Lord Grantham drives now. He drove the family to the fat stock show and even sat mere inches away from farmer Drewe. Last season he was so proud of himself when he poured his own drink. He must be rather insufferable at this latest feat of modernity, though it was something that went unremarked here. It is one of the many changes that we see happening – like the staff around the servant’s hall dining table who have been slowly disappearing, one by one, for years. Is it attrition or is something more sinister at play? After all, with servants moving on all across the land since the war, who would notice a few who go missing? One could write quite the interesting whodunit based on that theory. Fan fiction writers, have at it! For now, let’s tuck into episode 2…

Mason Jarred: All Systems Go:

Daisy continues to seethe. Understandable. She has spent most of her young life toiling underground. It is only recently that she has seen slices of the wider world out there and the more she sees of it the more she realizes what she’s been missing. She’s angry at the system and the Crawleys are a part of that system. Molesley is (maybe) a little frightened of what Daisy might do to herself if she cannot keep a lid on her anger and expectations. He tries to help by going to speak to the headmaster of the Wizard School in Ripon, on Daisy’s behalf, and returns with old exams for her to study. It’s been a long time since I was in school, but isn’t that considered to be cheating? Is Molesley unwittingly dragging Daisy into a cheating scandal? Molesley then asks Baxter to pull an O’Brien on Cora (minus the trance-like state) and see if she can do anything to help Mr. Mason. However, Daisy wants to argue her own case with Lady Grantham, who doesn’t think she can do anything – or maybe she can. She’s indecisive. She’s either sweet or medicated. We’re never quite sure. Yet she does have a very pleasant way of saying, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

In other news…Mrs. Patmore is cheating with a jar of horseradish. Things can’t be all that bad. What’s next? A can of SPAM? Heaven forfend!

Some Pig: Six Degrees of Crawley Bacon: 

A man named Mr. Finch, who looks a lot like the doppelganger of Mr. Tufton (the randy grocer who paid court to Mrs. Patmore in Season 3) turns up at the Abbey looking for the estate’s agent. He is immediately confused when Mary tells him to hold onto his hat (since he isn’t actually wearing a hat), then tells him to go upstairs to take it off. Then things really get weird: She tells him she is the new agent. He is momentarily stunned, although he quickly recovers and invites Downton to a fat stock show, which looks a lot like the Westminster Dog Show but for (let’s say) big boned farm animals. Mary, who has now taken to modeling for Ralph Lauren in her spare time (and has no suitor drama this week) is excited at the prospect and immediately offers to enter Edith into the show. Things become a little sticky for Mr. Finch when he has to explain that Edith is not eligible to be entered. Mary was certain that this was the one thing Edith was eligible for, but never mind, Downton’s pigs are quite fetching. Cora frets that Mary won’t have enough time to get the pigs ready for the show as if Mary, who doesn’t even brush her own hair, is grooming them herself. One suspects that Mary’s efforts to prep the pigs would simply entail commanding Anna to style them because she understands just how a diamond headband can compensate for quite a lot. But all of this is burying the lede: The fat stock show meant Mary (as agent) had reason pay a call to Pigman Drewe at Ewe Tree Farm, and Master George wanted to come along. Whatever Georgie wants Georgie gets, and Marigold got thrown in in the bargain, which brought Marigold face-to-face with Mrs. Drewe. It all ended in tears for everyone except Mary – though it did bring her a rare moment of clarity, “perhaps I was being insensitive.” Ya think?

This Little Piggy: The Cheese Stands Alone:

Mrs. Drewe meets her Waterloo. “What about Mrs. Drewe?” “Was Mrs. Drewe there?” were the oft repeated refrains this week. Of course Mary thought she was being kind to Pigman and Mrs. Drewe by making sure Mrs. Drewe got the chance to see Marigold. We’ll give Mary credit there. Although…maaaaybe there was just a teensy, little bit of her that thought that after seeing her, the Drewes might want to take the baby back from Edith. Maybe just a little bit. Maybe more than a little bit. Anyone else have an opinion on that? Because it just might suit Mary down to the ground if Marigold were to be taken away from Edith, and after Mrs. Patmore refused her request to turn the child into gingerbread, what else was Mary to do? It seems pretty obvious that Mary is the only person in the house who doesn’t know that Marigold is Edith’s daughter. And Edith is adamant that Mary not know — which means, eventually Mary is going to find out. We just have to wait for it. Edith fears Mary would use the knowledge as a weapon and even Cora agrees she would.  Everyone treats Mary as if she’s some kind of despot that needs to be continually appeased, like Kim Jong-un with a better haircut. I don’t know if Mary would use Marigold as a weapon, but I do think she might like to throw Edith a big surprise baby shower (and invite the Turkish Ambassador).

For now Mary doesn’t know. Edith accidentally starts to feel too happy and part of things at the house. So when the Downton pig wins the prize, she dares tempt fate by saying, “Yes, well done us!” Us. And, wait for it… jinx!…Marigold is GONE! MARIGOLD IS MISSING? Was she kidnapped? Wait…where was Bates? (Sorry, just a reflex.) Turns out Mrs. Drewe is a bit of a bunny boiler and she and Marigold went wee, wee, wee all the way home to Ewe Tree Farm. When Farmer Drewe goes into the house and Mrs. Drewe is sitting there holding Marigold and humming creepily, am I the only one who (for an instant) thought that she’d killed her? I fear that if Downton Abbey kept going, by Season 9, Marigold’s therapy bills would bankrupt the estate for good. I do have sympathy for Mrs. Drewe, but let’s do the math: It is hard to know exactly how long Marigold was with the Drewes. We know Marigold spent her first six months with Edith in Switzerland before she handed her over to Mrs. Schroeder. We don’t know how long Marigold spent with the Schroeders before Edith made arrangements with Farmer Drewe, but she couldn’t have spent more than a few months or so with the Drewes before Edith took her back. Does anyone have a more accurate timeline? Farmer Drewe was wrong about keeping the secret from his wife, but he was right about one thing, “we forgot about emotion and emotion is what can trip you up every time.” Yep, emotion and secrets. At the end of the day, Edith is to farmer’s wives what Mary is to lovers: few survive the encounter. The Drewes should count themselves lucky they escaped with their lives. So now it’s time to play musical farms, and isn’t this convenient because isn’t there another farmer somewhere who’s looking for a new situation? I do seem to recall that there was someone…wait, isn’t it that chap who spends his days baking cookies in a hollow tree? What was his name again? Hmmm…I’m sure it will come to me…

What’s Up Doc?: Ryder On The Storm:

If you placed a bet this week on when Anna would start to sob uncontrollably in your Downton Abbey office pool, and you picked 18 minutes in, you win! Congratulations! Yes, of course Anna & Bates are having trouble having a baby. Why wouldn’t they? They have trouble with everything else. This is different though. In the past, no matter what storms she has walked through, no matter how her dreams were tossed and blown, Anna has always held her head up high and not been afraid, but this has knocked her for six. She is despondent. Bates, on the other hand, is philosophical and platitudinal. When he catches her sobbing in the boot room he tells her, “You never have to cry alone”, which few people know was an alternative song title cut from Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel before it opened.

For her part, Mary wants to help her sister/servant and she won’t take no for an answer (and in this case that’s a good thing). She has always loved Anna and her heart of gold. Anna has always been the go-to person whenever Lady Mary had a secret that needed keeping or a dead body that needed shlepping. She feels she owes Anna for her loyalty, and she’s right. At the end of this storm there just might be a golden sky in the form of Dr. Ryder, the London OB/GYN who solved Mary’s lady parts issue. He finds that Anna has Cervical Incompetency and unlike all the law enforcement incompetency she has suffered from, there is a simple procedure that can be done to solve this problem and likely allow her to carry a baby Bates to term. And not only that, this London doctor will make a house call…all the way to Yorkshire! Holy cow! I can’t even get my doctor to stay in the room long enough to answer a simple question! This visit to the doctor did the trick. Our PollyAnna is back and she walks on with hope in her heart. For now. We’ve got 7 episodes left to go. Who knows what’s coming.

The Delicate Delinquent: One is the Loneliest Number:

Thomas fears he is about to become road kill. Surprisingly, for all his experience in domestic espionage, he makes a rookie mistake: He gets a little too needy and looks for reassurance by asking a question that gives his mortal enemy, Carson, the upper hand. And Carson uses that hand to gleefully give him a smack down. Or just play a head game. Gosh, you know, you do a bit of thieving, a snuff box here, a couple bottles of wine there, a dog, maybe a wallet — in 1912 — and people just won’t let you forget it. Thomas is an outcast among the lower caste. And if that weren’t bad enough, the talk of winding the clocks makes Thomas wistful for the old sexy clock-winding of days of yore, spent with a certain dumb blonde. He misses his old (and only) friend and everyone downstairs is playing zone defense to block him from getting anywhere near Andy, so there will be no new friend. Gosh, you know, you sneak into a guy’s room and kiss him while he’s sleeping one time and people just won’t let you forget it. Sigh. Alone again, naturally. No one trusts him. Gosh, you know, you do a bit of plotting, with (and against) assorted staff (with and without your noodle-banged former spirit animal) and people just won’t let you forget it. On the other hand, (for what they know) saving Sybbie from an abusive Nanny, and scouring the woods for Lord Grantham’s missing dog, that they forget!  What’s a reformed conspirator to do? Look in the classified ads for a new situation (for all you kids out there, that’s like Craig’s List but on paper). Unfortunately, his first interview doesn’t go so well. The head of HR/Butler asks a few leading questions about why our Thomas hasn’t found the right girl yet. This Smug Married wants him (and, no doubt, everyone else he meets) to know there is a little lady whose expectations are low enough that she’s waiting for him to come home, and he suspiciously questions why Thomas doesn’t have the same. So it’s no play for Mr. Gay. He’s being rejected for a job he doesn’t even want. Thomas, that former mighty footman, is rather downcast and would rather slip into his cave than attend the muddy little affair of a pig show with everyone, even though, truth be told, if anyone actually offered him a muddy little affair he’d be right in there before you could say Jimmy Contra Mundi. All it takes is a kind word from a renewed PollyAnna to convince him to join the others. You just know that when everyone was running around like crazy looking for Marigold, Thomas was thinking, “great opportunity! If I can find this kid I’m in for life…or until the next time they forget about the appearance of a good deed I’ve performed.” But it was not to be. Will Thomas make the cut when the pink slips start to fly? Or, with all his piggy back ride-giving experience, might Master George submit him as the Crawley’s entry into Royal Ascot? Stranger things have happened!

Hello, I Must Be Going: Goodnight Nurse:

As the Royal Yorkshire Hospital sends letters to the Village Hospital donors (offering them tote bags and DVDs, no doubt), the Dowager continues to circle the wagonettes. The battle lines are drawn in more ways than one. It is Violet against the world – or maybe just against the future. After Cora came out in favor of the merger the last time around, Violet tries to gerrymander the vote by holding Robert’s hand on the radiator until he promises not to let Cora know there is a trustees meeting – and Lord Known For Bad Decisions listens to Mummy. He never learns. The Dow G does not abide by Robert’s Rules of Order (different Robert), or the Geneva Convention, and she’s not too sure about the laws of gravity either. She is a law unto herself. Lord Mummy’s Boy is being pulled between Violet and Cora (Better choose wisely, Bud.) and he fears there will be blood on the carpet, mostly because there are no housemaids left to clean it up. When Cora turns up at the hospital for a tour and expresses a mind of her own that can be neither shaken nor stirred, a cage match ensues between her, Violet and Isobel in the middle of the ward, bewildering the patients until Dr. Clarkson calls them into the principal’s office. And then there’s Dickie Merton who only wants to play doctor with Isobel, but she is still so traumatized from her last encounter with his smarmy, entitled mongrels that she cannot bear to even speak to Lord Dickie about anything other than hospital business. Anything that even begins to veer toward familiarity causes her to suddenly dart into oncoming traffic. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that the real reason Lord Dickie is in favor of the hospital merger is he is hoping it brings a medical advance that allows him to have said entitled mongrels surgically removed and flung into the road.

The Trouble With Editors:

Edith has a new editor, Mr. Skinner, and he ain’t so charming. In fact he’s a screamer who sounds a lot like every adult in every Charlie Brown special. Edith is at her wit’s end trying to convince him that her intentions are the most sincere and all he can do is berate her for being a dilettante and snatch her football away before she can kick it. He needs to remember that Edith isn’t just the girlfriend who inherited Gregson’s publishing empire; she was first a writer for the magazine. Edith needs to remember that as well.

Despite having her own apartment in London now, Edith stays at Hotel Rosamund while in town. Edith admits it’s because she has never lived alone and isn’t sure she’d be any good at it. Rosamund is her security blanket and, naturally, does nothing to encourage her independence. Instead she offers her five pence worth of advice in warning Edith about becoming too good at it. Given the history of how tragically bad Rosamund’s advice has been, most would agree five pence is way overpriced (and a person would have to have just rocks in their head to take it!). Then, right on cue, Mary manages to interrupt their conversation from a two hundred miles away with news of her imminent arrival via Sopwith Camel. But why did she send a telegram? Why didn’t she just call? Whatever. FYI: In case you were wondering, a telegram delivered on a silver tray, mid-conversation, was the posh 1925 version of someone taking a cell call while you’re at dinner. Rather beastly, I’d say.

Bridezillas in the Mist: It’s My Wedding and I’ll Cry If I Want To:

Now that the whole ‘sketching with Annabelle Portsmouth’ question has been settled, there is the matter of planning the wedding and right away there is pre-marital discord that may be a harbinger of things to come: Mrs. Hughes wants a destination wedding, i.e., any destination but Downton. Nevertheless, when Lord DIY asks how the plans are coming along and Carson mentions that they are looking for a reception venue, Mary cheerily suggests they have it there at Downton, which is a great offer for about two seconds. Then Lord Clueless chimes in by going all Andy Hardy and exclaiming, “Yes! We can decorate the servant’s hall and put on a show and all the kids will come!” What a sport! Even after Mary ups the ante, Mrs. Hughes is nonplussed by the offer. She wants a day where she’s the Lady, not the maid.  Still Mary makes it clear that this was an offer they can’t refuse. When she says “leave Mrs. Hughes to me”, a look of absolute terror washes across Carson’s face. He does love Mary, but like Lord and Lady Grantham, he also knows what she is capable of. (Actually, he maybe knows even better than Lord & Lady G.) Nevertheless, Mrs. Hughes is unbowed, “I know well enough that we’ll be doing it your way for the next 30 years. The wedding day is mine!” Tactical error there, Elsie! You should not have conceded the next 30 years right out of the gate. Nope. You may have to call Murray and renegotiate this thing.  And file this under the irresistible force meets the immoveable object: Mrs. Hughes won’t have a mother-in-law to deal with, but we have a feeling Lady Mary will more than make up for that. It seems that poor Carson’s destiny is to be taffy-pulled between two strong women from here to eternity. Not so very reassuring, is it? Mazel tov!

The Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. Don’t give me ideas.
  1. I hope you’re not implying she’d be more powerful than me.
  1. It isn’t friendly to stir her into a position.
  1. Your facts or mine?…Mine are the true facts!
  1. If you can’t say anything helpful, Robert, please be silent.

Rate the Runway:

Before we go, can we just take a moment to discuss the costume color stories so far this season? Creams, camels, soft greens and browns, and lots of grays with some muted pops of color like Lord Dickie’s dusty red gloves and ascot: The fashion, art direction and cinematography on Downton Abbey has always been fabulous. As much as the writing, this is what makes this a real world and tells a story. This season, especially with Edith’s wardrobe, it has been kicked up yet another notch. (The outfit she wore to go meet her editor was to die for!) It is not just fashion; it is also character development that is expressed in a visual shorthand with these costumes. They are a different aspect of the brilliant storytelling that is Downton Abbey.