Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 3 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | January 17, 2016

Downton Abbey. A wedding dress drama takes a disastrous turn. A handsome volunteer helps Edith meet a deadline. The hospital debate gets nasty. Shown from left to right: Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes and Jim Carter as Mr. Carson. Photo: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015.

What a night! Carson and Mrs. Hughes finally jump the broom, the prodigal chauffeur returns, and Anna didn’t cry even once! Wait, what’s that I hear? A choir of angels playing Ode to Joy on kazoos? Too right!

Candy Striper: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a BFF: 

All these Lollipop Guild meetings are putting everyone on edge, causing Granny Violet to wave her shiv around at imaginary adversaries and shout in French. They don’t bring out the best in Isobel either. She went all postal on poor old Doctor Clarkson, accusing him of working for Kaiser Wilhelm or something like that. And she might have bit him. We’ll have to check the replay. Et tu, Isobel? Even Dickie was shocked and may now think he’s had a lucky escape after all. It all continues to roll downhill as poor Cora, who’s not used to getting up early or leaving the house or exerting herself in any way, had to witness this heavyweight fight and was left with a severe sugar coma headache because of it. (Though we are we are not sure why since (pretty much) all her dinner parties at Downton end up in much the same way.) Then, to make matters even worse, after all that stress, Cora goes home to relax, only to find that Mary has given her clothes away to the servants, before she’s even dead! Needless to say she goes berserk – in her whispery kind of way – upsetting Anna and Mrs. Patmore, and possibly ruining Mrs. Hughes wedding. Doctor Clarkson, still left reeling after Isobel’s attack, may flip flop on Violet and change his mind about the takeover. (Clearly he doesn’t know about her expert shiv waving capabilities.) It’s like a 20-car pileup. Can the Royal Yorkshire help the Village Hospital get a Level One Trauma Center set up? I think they need it. And not for nothing, but they better get all this hospital mishegas settled quick because Robert is having sharp but obscurely located pains (again). He may need a new heart.

Baby On Board: Something About Anna:

All those suffering from Bates fatigue got a reprieve this week as the double trouble couple got a bit of a reboot. Aside from the Cora Coat Caper Quagmire, they steered clear of the law, keeping the heat off themselves by phoning in anonymous tips about Mr. Sprat to Sgt. Willis. Just a theory. There are no flying monkeys on the Bates’ horizon (knock wood, kine hora, pooh pooh) so they are back to farting rainbows and all is right with the world – or will be soon… maybe. At least it’s heading in the right direction. It seems that Anna is pregnant again (not surprising; there’s no electricity in that cottage) and Mary is so excited at the news she offered to dress herself so Anna can take it easy. With all the modern fashions that are easier to get on and off, one thinks Anna is really more a companion and confidant to Mary than anything else at this point. Do you agree? For her part, Anna doesn’t want to be excited. She doesn’t want to count her chickens before they hatch, or before Doctor Ryder works his magic. If this were Mrs. Hughes, Mary would demand that she be excited anyway. But it’s not. It’s her Anna. And she and Bates are having a lovey-dovey relationship renaissance, and happily lovey-dovey they will remain until fate sees fit to drop another house on them. For now they are back to gazing at each other and cooing things like, “There is something about you, Mr. Bates. Scotland Yard has always seen it, and I see it too.” Ain’t love grand?

Town & Country: The Devil Wears Out His Welcome:

Lady Edith did something jolly with her magazine. She bravely looked middle-age in the face (by the way, tell middle-age we said hell-oo) and flew down to London in a cyclone of editor drama. Editor Skinner seemed to be a shiftless old hand who didn’t much like the idea of taking suggestions from a woman, but the wind began to switch as soon as Edith found her courage and told Mr. Skinner to take his job and shove off. She finally found her voice. In another bit of urban kismet; on a London street, Edith ran into Brancaster Birdie. Oddly, Edith seems to have a tough time placing him for a moment, even though it was only last summer that they spent a weekend together, shooting, dancing and searching for bow ties. Though maybe she was just playing it cool because she hadn’t heard from him in all this time. Well played, Edith. Well played. Either way, he brushed it off and asked her for a drink, which got waylaid by magazine mayhem. Thankfully Birdie is a camper and didn’t mind putting hands to the pump instead of elbows on the bar – and as first dates go, this was much better than drinks or dinner. And I have to say, as someone who has worked in magazines, I loved watching them put the layout together in the way we used to do it before computers came along. That was a fun walk down deadline memory lane. I miss those misty watercolor memories of the way we were. Sigh. But back to Lady AARP: Edith still stumbles over how to refer to Marigold in public, hesitatingly calling her ‘my ward’, which brings up a question that I hadn’t thought about before: What does Marigold call Edith? Aunty Edith? Mummy? Hey Lady? I’m curious about this now. And has anyone else noticed how Robert is suddenly so proud of Edith? Remember when he was so dismissive of her even writing a letter to the editor? Or her writing anything? Or, essentially, anything else she wanted to do? Now, suddenly, she’s the famous editor trailing clouds of glory. What’s the deal? It does seem to make Edith happy and Mary peeved. A little power shift she (no doubt) enjoys. It’s a funny thing, all this time, Edith has been searching for a place to belong; a home. Now that she finally feels accepted in one place (Downton), she has found a home and maybe a purpose in another.

Family Feud: Everybody Knows Your Name: 

Mr. Sprat’s feet of clay are showing, by way of his unsavory relatives. His flat-footed nephew turns up after escaping from jail, followed close behind by an inquiring Sgt. Willis, and that’s never a good sign, all of which amuses Denker to no end. Methinks she will try to use this info to seek revenge for broth-gate. Bickersons Sprat and Denker go so out of their ways to loathe each other so much, that one wonders, is this going to end up being a Sam and Diane-type relationship? Could Violet’s nerves take it? Could ours? For her part, Denker made a brainless move this week when she sought to engage Violet in a duel of wits. Never a good idea. Greater men have tried and run screaming into the night. Unfortunately for Denker, she came to the duel an unarmed opponent and Violet sliced and diced her faster than you could say, “Just get me the bloody hot chocolate already!”

To Sir With Love: Pick a Little, Talk a Little:

Planet Molesley is blue and there’s nothing he can do, or is there? Is he entering an age of disillusionment? While Lady AARP is looking middle age in the face, poor Molesley might just be in the throes of a full on middle age existential crisis. We saw the early stages of it last season when he had that unfortunate black shoe polish incident, but this seems to be something more. Why does he now look downright uncomfortable standing in the background as the Crawleys dine and chat. It looks like he wants to cut and run, or maybe he just needs to use the little footman’s room. I don’t know what it all means. Could it be that he’s tired of being treated like he’s a statue, standing in the background, on the outskirts of other people’s lives instead of having one of his own? Or is it the conversations he overhears that make him uncomfortable? The Crawleys discuss Mrs. Hughes in front of him, but suddenly quiet down when Carson enters the room, putting him in an awkward position. Or is it merely that he’d just rather be doing something else? When the Wizard School principal refers to his tutoring Daisy and asks him if he’s missed his calling, he answers, “I’ve missed everything.” Sigh. Oh, Molesley. What about that calling? Up until now, when Molesley has gotten a calling, it’s mostly been for more tea. Might there be something else out there? Is it too late? Is there anyone who can give him the courage to do whatever it is he’s ruminating about? The teacher gives him quite the testimonial, and his friendship with Baxter is humming along. (Though not going anywhere – but look how long it took Carson & Mrs. Hughes to jump the broom,) Perhaps Molesley should learn from the two of them that it is never too late, and also, don’t delay! Time to stop burning daylight.

Glory Days: Not Gone Fishing: 

Thomas’ melancholy job search continues. This week it brings him to a place called Dryden Park and provides him (and us) with a ghost of Christmas future-like view of what is in store for estates like Downton. Sir Michael Raisby is a sad figure, living in his grey garden, remembering the days that have passed him and his great house by, days and nights of entertaining assorted nobility, including the Fife Princesses (who were the daughter and granddaughter of King Edward VII). He wants to be ready for when those good times return. His memories and his delusions are all he has left. For years Lord Grantham lamented not having a son and heir but if he saw Sir Michael and his situation, he would count himself lucky. The Crawley daughters didn’t go to war (except with each other). They are still here (minus Sybil) filling the house. Trying to save an estate with a team is tough enough. For an elderly man on his own it is impossible. All he can do is sit and wait for Godot. Toto, we’re not in Downton anymore. At Downton, you can see the wear as well, but only around the edges, if you look in the background of scenes in certain parts of the house, but nothing like the dilapidated Dryden Park. While this job interview, like the last one, did not go well for Thomas, at least this one doesn’t ask him if he’s a friend of Dorothy. Meanwhile back at the ranch, everyone is doubting Thomas as always. He tells Baxter that those running interference between him and Andy (which is everyone) have it all wrong. He only ever wanted to be friends. Nothing more, but that is not possible now because everyone assumed different and poisoned Andy’s mind against him, and there’s no going back now. When asked about his disenchantment, Thomas says, “I can’t see the future.” Homosexuality was not decriminalized in the UK until 1967, more than forty years in the future, so that might be why Thomas cannot see it from where he is now, sitting at the table in the servant’s hall in 1925. One wonders if he lived to see it. Too many didn’t, but we’d like to think that Thomas does.

FYI: It’s a Small (Over-Developed) World After All:

The location used for Sir Michael Raisby’s home, Dryden Park, is actually a 200 year old, 100 room house called Tottenham House, which is on the 800 acre Savernake estate. Savernake estate has been home to the Earls of Cardigan, inventors of the sweater (OK, I made up the bit about the sweaters), for over 900 years (It was given to the family by William the Conqueror.), until last year when it was sold for £12 million. When you think about what apartments go for in NYC, £12 million is quite a bargain for this estate! The Savernake estate was the original site of Wolf Hall, the home of the Seymour family and Henry VIII’s third wife Jane. The dilapidated Tottenham house had been mostly empty since it was rented out as a prep school in the 1990’s, and (mirroring so many characters we’ve seen on Downton) the current Earl, who lives in a smaller lodge on the estate, swore he would never let it go, but he finally had to admit defeat. It will now be developed into ‘luxury flats’. Those damn real estate developers are everywhere!

I’ve been Working on the Railroad: Say Yes To The Dress: 

Ladies and gentlemen, at this evening’s performance the part of the Mother-in-Law From Hell will be played by the Honorable Lady Mary Crawley. Praise be upstanding. Carry on. The big day is almost here and Mrs. Hughes has got the wedding bell blues. The tag team of Maryzilla and Groomzilla have spent all the live long day pushing her into a wedding reception that she’s more resigned to than excited about. Concerned Mrs. Patmore steps in to act as go-between, which is now her permanent duty (though she wasn’t drafted this time and thankfully will not need to discuss naughty bits). If and when Downton closes down, she’ll be able to slide sideways into a diplomatic post with very little fuss. She enlists the services of Super Countess to do battle with the evil forces of Lady Ephalba. Later, when Cora asks Carson to bring Mrs. Hughes into the drawing room, the thought bubble over Mary’s head said, ‘ruh-roh, rumbled’. Mrs. Hughes explains sweetly and sincerely that she wants it to be about Charles and Else; their day, done in their way. She wants to invite the Village People and hooley down; dance on the tables in a place where she doesn’t have to sweep up afterwards. Everyone agrees, except Mary who considers taking the matter to the Supreme Court, only dropping it when she can’t reach Murray.

Then there’s the matter of the dress. One suspects that her lack of enthusiasm over the reception manifested itself in her giving up on the dress altogether, opting to set the bar low and simply go for tidy. Mrs. Patmore again tries to step in but is not the first woman to be disappointed by a catalogue. Now it’s Mary’s turn to offer a fix and everything is chugging along once more — until that awful business about the coat threatens to put a damper on the whole shebang. In a reversal, now Mary does battle with Cora (probably more for upset Anna’s sake than anything else). Cora goes downstairs and offers an apology to Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore. If you haven’t seen an apology in a while, hello, this is how it’s done! Have you noticed how so many people don’t apologize anymore? Not a proper apology anyway. That whole, “I’m sorry you were offended” garbage is not an apology. It is a passive/aggressive way of shifting the onus from the offender to the offendee without actually admitting to anything. It’s one of my pet peeves. But Cora did not do that. She took full responsibility; she admitted she behaved badly, said she hoped they would accept her apology, and asked them to please forgive her. Classy. Then, as a gift, she offers Mrs. Hughes her fancy coat, wadded up in a ball. Don’t worry, Baxter will fix it. It was the thought that counts. Carson and Mrs. Hughes have one last pre-alter conversation; He’s tender, she’s bashful. Very sweet. That sound you just heard was a million Downtonian hearts sighing in unison.

The day of the Wedding of the Century arrives and everything goes to plan; Carson didn’t pull a Strallin, and no one jumps up to object. Shrimpy even sent his bagpipes. But there’s no kiss at the chapel so it looked a little bit like a business merger. At the receiving line, Lady Mary sort of apologized for her behavior, but wait, did she apologize only to Carson, not Mrs. Hughes? Hmmm, I don’t know…we’ll have to check that out on the re-run. Anyway, Mrs. Carson (this name change will take a bit of getting used too) took the high road and tells Lady Ignatz not to worry, that Carson would forgive her even if she attacked him with a brick. To which I say, “Don’t give her any ideas!” Carson then toasts his bride and is upstaged when suddenly out of nowhere, Tom and Sybbie appear! Tom had been crying himself to sleep dreaming of Downton and pigeons and he finally clicked his heels right back to Crawleyville. The Downton nursery is reunited and can begin to terrorize the village in earnest (flash forward to 25 years from now when the folk rock group, Marigold, Sybbie & George, take college campuses by storm).  But hold on a minute, what brought all this on? It turns out Tom had to go all the way to Boston to be able figure out what he left behind at Downton. What did he learn? “If I ever go looking for my own heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it. But oh, you’re all here, and I’m never going to leave here ever again! And oh, Lady M, there’s no place like home!”

The Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. I know several couples who are perfectly happy. Haven’t spoken in years.
  2. I know nothing of Sprats friends. I know he has a great many relations who seem to get married and buried with numbing regularity, usually on very inconvenient days.
  3. In my experience, second thoughts are vastly overrated.
  4. Did you drink at luncheon?
  5. A peer in favor of reform is like a turkey in favor of Christmas.

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