Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 4 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | January 24, 2016

‘Carson is a kind man.’ ‘Sybil’s kindness changed my life.’

This week’s theme is kindness; and this episode is all about how having it, giving it and receiving it, changes lives for the better – and how not getting it twists others. It also invokes the memories of two of the kindest souls to ever reside under Downton’s roof: William and Sybil. The lives they led continue to have an impact upon the Downton family, in unexpected ways, years after they left it behind.

Go Ask Daisy: Ain’t That Peculiar:

Have we ever seen Daisy’s room? I don’t think we have. I’m starting to wonder if Mrs. Patmore might be keeping her in a rabbit hutch under the kitchen sink. That could explain why she seems to get so disoriented whenever she goes up above ground. Either that or she didn’t heed the warning to stay away from the brown acid at Fatstock last week. She’s dazed and confused. She’s also mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. She is no longer buying into this Tale of Two Downtons. What is (currently) driving Miss Daisy crazy? The news relayed by Thomas that Mr. Mason won’t be getting Yew Tree Farm after all. This causes Daisy to go hurtling out of control down Bitterness Highway shouting Vive la France, with Madame Defarge riding shotgun.   She corners Branson to make her case, and it is a good one, reminding him of William’s sacrifice. He agrees to help, and everything seems fine. But then she just snaps; she can’t wait any longer for an answer that she assumes will be no. She has lost her sense of occasion. It’s a recipe for disaster and her surrogate parents downstairs all try to pull her emergency brakes to no avail. Meanwhile back at the ranch (i.e.; upstairs in the drawing room), Gwen’s visit has got the Crawleys thinking WWSD? (What Would Sybil Do?). This leads them to give the tenancy to Mr. Mason just as Daisy steps through the looking glass to confront Lady Cora. “Daisy?” “Yes, it’s me.” (Who else would it be?) Awkward.  So Daisy’s big windup was all for naught. In the end justice prevailed and Mr. Mason is saved. He will have to smudge the place and toss all the Lady Edith Voodoo dolls that Mrs. Drewe left behind, but hey, that’s a small price to pay. He bought the farm and lived to tell the tale. Just one question: Who got custody of the pigs? I hope Pigman Drewe didn’t just leave them behind and unattended to get dehydrated, because Mr. Snappy Chariot doesn’t look like the type who could fill Charles Blake’s muddy shoes in the pig watering department. And speaking of muddy shoes, it turns out that city mouse Andy would rather be a country mouse. That was a little spark we just saw between he and Daisy right there, wasn’t it? Did you see it too?

Secretary-at: Movin’ On Up:

A blast from the past! Aunt Rosamund is on the board of Hillcroft, the college for clever women, which is really great because she has given such terrific advice to her nieces over the years. And she recommended Edith for the board as well because, why not?   At first it sounded like Rosamund wanted to set Edith up with the treasurer, Mr. Harding, didn’t it? By coincidence, he lives near Downton and he comes for luncheon with his wife, GWEN!!! We haven’t seen this former housemaid her since that summer lawn party that was interrupted by WWI. Mary says all she learned in school was French, prejudice, and dance steps. Did Mary attend the Arthur Murray School for Toffs? At first Mary is suspicious, she maybe has her sussed, and tries to wrong-foot her, though in her semi-genteel way. Thomas, on the other hand, drops her right in it, announces to the table that she used to work there, and a hush falls over Jerusalem. Maybe it is that lack of reason he spoke of that led him to pull a Classic Thomas right out in the open. Over the years everyone has seen bits of Thomas’ scheming; but always in the wild, away in a corridor, on the sly. He has never before done that to a guest (or anyone) in the dining room (though he came close when he resented having to wait on Branson.) This was almost like seeing the Loch Ness Monster up close – whatever he was trying to achieve, other than hurt her because he resents that she got to sit at the table while he was still waiting on it, it backfires on him because Gwen comes baring welcome memories of Lady Sybil.

Career, marriage, children; Gwen won a triple crown that would not have been possible had she stayed in service, and she would never have been able to leap that hurdle out of service without the assist from Sybil. Sybil’s kindness changed her life and for that she will always remember her. If you listen closely you can hear Thomas grinding his teeth in the background. Then they all descend to the Servant’s Hall for a proper catch-up. The Crawleys partying in the kitchen again! This is a weekly thing now. All this talk of Sybil’s kindness is all a big wake up call for Mary too. It makes her take stock of her own life and think about how she can be a better person. But as soon as she catches sight of Edith she reverts to type. Oh well. It was a nice thought. What other blasts from Downton’s past would you like to see turn up at the Abbey before this final season ends, so we can find out whatever became of them? Maybe the Duke of Crowborough found his Lady ATM and now returns for a little something on the side with Thomas. Or maybe Ethel had a change in fortunes and got back custody of little Charlie. Or maybe O’Brien became a self-made millionaire with her cosmetics company, ‘Her Ladyship’s Soap’. Hey, it could happen!

The Devil Made Me Do It: I’m Still Standing: 

Just when she thought it was safe, Sergeant Willis (who is always such a harbinger of impending doom that his entrance should be accompanied by the theme from Jaws) turns up at Downton with questions for Baxter. She is instantly nervous. She trembles. It’s about Mr. Peter Coyle, the man who seduced her back when she thought dreams would never die and God would be forgiving, then left her holding the (empty) bag of jewels. He’s done it to yet another woman and Willis wants Baxter to be a witness to his bad character. Coyle has left a trail of broken lives and Willis is trying to build a case against him, but Baxter fears coming face to face with the man who killed the dream she dreamed. Molesley tries to change her mind with a pep talk, ‘All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ (He read that somewhere.) Yes, thank you, Molesley. That’s true, though much easier to say when you’ve got no skin in the game. Baxter fears that this will be a storm she cannot weather, and Coyle has so changed her that she cannot see that Molesley’s dream is to be her shelter in that storm. Upstairs, Cora doesn’t notice that Baxter is preoccupied and isn’t engaging in her chit-chat. While Lady Cora is rabbiting on about her usual trivialities, Baxter is thinking hey-ho, hey-ho, it might be back off to jail I go. In the end, Baxter is persuaded to assist the prosecution in an effort to get Coyle off the street and stop him from ruining more lives, but she fears he can still hurt her. Is that because there is more to her story, some incriminating nugget, that we know nothing about? If so, when the penny drops, will it be dreadful?

Up the Down Staircase: Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls:

While the cat is away on his honeymoon, the mouse plays the part of Butler, though he’s more rat bastard than mouse. Thomas seems to enjoy making everyone stand up when he walks into the Servant’s Hall. I’m thinking that he just walks in and out of there all day long, simply for the thrilling sensation of making everyone stand up for him. And, in an odd move, he demands Mrs. Patmore keep him supplied with bowls of M&M’s with all the red ones removed, and institutes a new rule that everyone must refer to him as the King of Pop. Not sure what that’s about. At this point he fairly drips bitterness and resentment and it is getting increasingly messy. He’s having an existential crisis. He cannot seem to understand why he has no friends. Um, maybe because you scheme and betray everyone who tries to befriend you, collecting information and using it against them as a weapon, at whatever point down the road you choose. Maybe that’s why.

It is hard to know the chicken from the egg in all this. Thomas has been malevolent as long as we have known him. But was he already that way before he ever came to Downton? Or did he just turn up with a mere chip on his shoulder that former BFF O’Brien helped sculpt into this monument to pettiness. We don’t know. But Baxter is right, he is his own worst enemy. As much as I want to feel sympathy for Thomas because of his impossible situation, when he behaves like this I can’t. He intentionally tries to hurt people, and not enemies, people like Anna and Baxter or Gwen, who have only ever been kind to him. He sees himself as having dedicated his life to service. That sounds a little martyr-y to me. Others might quibble at use of the word ‘dedicated’, preferring to just say ‘spent’. He spent his life in service and has been an opportunist all the way through, scheming and lying as he went. It is surprising the Crawleys don’t all wear flea collars, given the number he’s put in their ears over the years. It has left him as the odd man out. He says he does care what people say, but he has a funny way of showing it! He just cannot seem to get out of his own way. He may think he is an outsider because he is because he’s gay, but I do think that if he were kinder, he would not be the outcast he is.

At the party, while everyone else is mingling, Thomas stands off to the side, at attention, like he’s in the upstairs dining room while everyone else parties. No one pays him any mind. No one invites him to join in. Not even Anna. He is as separate downstairs as he is upstairs. Not even Anna. I’m thinking that what he did to Gwen was the last straw.  With Carson away, Robert got to see Thomas’ machinations in the raw. It must have been that lack of reason he was feeling that caused him to think that his established style of whispering in hallways was no longer enough. Instead he blatantly tried to sabotage Gwen right out in the open, laying an egg on the dining room, and for no good reason other than jealousy. It let daylight in upon his character and Robert did not like what he saw. This has been a long time coming. Thomas has been on the chopping block over and over since 1912 and every time he has managed to evade the pink slip. This time it really does seem to be final. He was only guessing before, but when Robert mentioned the hour striking, he as much as confirmed Thomas’ worst fear; he is about to get gonged. But will he go quietly? Somehow I think not. He was bad enough before, but now that he knows he has nothing to lose, what might he do? With all his intelligence gathering over the years, he’s got enough dirt to go all Vera Bates on the lot of them. Will he? And if he does, will he meet a similar fate?

Livin’ In America: How To Succeed In Business:

While Edith fears that a man wouldn’t want to share magazine editing duties with her, Branson doesn’t mind sharing Estate Agent duties with Mary. For her part, she tells him she wants what he wants (until he wants something she doesn’t want – like another Miss Bunting). It seems that Branson has spent his time in Boston reading Horatio Alger stories and returns in thrall of American capitalism. (Why that is different than British capitalism, I don’t know,) And like any young man with prospects, he’s going to the top. The top of where has yet to be determined. He may make his mark as a young executive at the World Wide Wicket Company or maybe Vandalay Industries, or maybe he and Mr. Snappy Chariot’s will form a brotherhood of man, and a team that takes Brooklands race track by storm. We do believe in you Branson, but please remember another kind soul, Matthew, and keep your eyes on the road, please!

Go Speed Racer, Go: Teach Me Tonight: 

It has always been in Lady Mary’s nature to try to fly too close to the Sun to test her wings, and who should appear to melt those wings (this time) but the lithe and supple figure of third-wheel Henry Talbots, of the Snappy Chariot Talbots. Turns out that Aunt he mentioned last season at Brancaster is Lady Shackleton, AKA the Dowager’s go-to monkey wrench. When they turn up for a dinner party, Violet wastes no time in checking Mr. Snappy Chariot’s FICO score. Lady Shackleton downplays his prospects, saying that 40 strong men would have to die for Hank to get an Earldom, but Mary has already killed two strapping young men (that we know of), so anything is possible. We have confidence in Mary. It seems Mr. Snappy Chariot’s prospects could be looking up. Lord Grantham is having none of this but cannot understand why Violet always doubts the authorship of anything pithy he says. Why does Mummy never think you can make anything up anything clever yourself? Because you were the only person in the room who didn’t realize they were talking about s-e-x! But while Robert is thick, Mr. Chariot is a little too slick, “One must be allowed some secrets.” Hello Mary, RED FLAG!! RUN! Isn’t that pretty reminiscent of Lord Tony’s, ‘Make a lie as truthful as possible.’ Yeah, and at the end of the evening he hands her his card and expects her to call him. What makes him think she will? And when he says, “you haven’t been taught, properly,” he’s not talking about cars! (Ask Granny!) What makes him think he can? Has Tony the Tiger been shooting his mouth off at Boodles again? He suggests they get together for drinks…or something. Or something? Something like… sketching with Annabelle Portsmouth?!? “Anna, quick, fetch my Dutch Thingamajig!!! We’re goin’ to town!!!”

Naturally Mary is too curious not to call. After all, she is in London, and the producers do have that Mary on-the-town music, so why shouldn’t she? She meets him at a swanky club. Like Daisy, Mr. Snappy Chariot is a revolutionary. How do we know? At the table, he leans back in his chair! He’s an animal! And that loud thud you heard in the background was Alastair Bruce hitting the floor in a heap. In all these years we’ve never seen anyone lean back in their chair like that! He’s a rule-breaker. Mary’s pattern is to go for men who challenge her, and this guy is a Rubik’s cube. He’s got challenge to spare. Mary tells him she likes to be surprised and they had a big laugh about the time some Turkish guy crept into her bedroom and then dropped dead. (That one is a great ice breaker.)  But when he tells her that despite her full life, “you’re at a loose end”, it sounds a bit like when you go out with your girlfriends and some guy comes over to your table and says, “are you girls alone?” Yeah, methinks he’s one of them, a player. Will Mary be his next guinea pig?

The Old Switcheroo: I’m a Believer:

Lady Edith is trying to figure out what to do with her magazine. She does want to be a co-editor and thinks she’ll need to find a female editor – because a woman would be more cooperative and willing to share and collaborate. (You’d think that having a sister like Mary would have led to a different conclusion than that but hey-ho.) Lady Mary does a Vulcan mind meld on her by agreeing with her, making Edith doubt herself, her decisions, her direction, her very existence. It has shaken her to the core. (Or at least made her so uncomfortable she had to walk away for fear of being turned into gingerbread.) Is this all part of Mary’s attempt to be more like Sybil? If so, it does fall just a wee bit short of the mark – and it doesn’t help that Gwen’s visit has also given her the cost-saving idea to scope out the kitchen to see which of the staff she can replace with a clever monkey. Points for trying though. When Violet mentioned Aunt Rosamund’s great-grandchildren was she just being insensitive or did she let something slip? Does Aunt Rosamund have a Marigold tucked away somewhere? If I were a wingnut conspiracy theorist I’d say it was Edith. But I’m not, so I’ll continue to wonder. As for Marigold, Sybbie and George, they were not seen at all this week. Methinks Carson and Mrs. Hughes were given the task of taking them to Scarborough and accidentally left them on the train. That’s my theory anyway.

Pie In The Sky: The Great (Baby) Race:

I think we can all agree, if you are ever in need of a partner for any kind of ruse, Lady Mary is your man. Anna is suddenly having pains and we know what that means. Why she had a pain in the morning but did nothing about it until evening is beyond me. But now Lady Mary witnesses this latest one and swoops in with a plan. It’s a race against time to get to Belgravia so the cautiously optimistic Dr. Ryder can thread his needle and save Baby Bates. They are off to London with Branson at the wheel, leaving questions in their wake. The Crawleys are a tad clueless, but Bates is a mind reader. He knows his PollyAnna and Mary share many secrets and he knows something is up – and thinks he knows what. If Lord Grantham ever decides to start dressing himself like a big boy, Bates could start the first psychic phone network. Of course, his predictions, like everything else about Bates, would be mysterious, barely decipherable, and leave people scratching their heads. In other news, Lord Grantham seems to be having a miscarriage too. When is he going to get these recurring pains seen to? If nothing else this demonstrates why they need a better hospital in the Village. No one even thinks to call Clarkson. They all just hop a train to London. And by the way, we should note another unremarked change: When in the car, Anna rides in the back with Mary, not in the front with the driver. We’ve come a long way baby since 1912!

Merge Right: The Plotz Thickens:

While the other ladies are plotting, Violet is plotzing, and it’s all about the hospital. Enlisting Lady Shackleton was no help at all. When Violet looked like she was starting to choke, for a moment I thought I could hear gasps as Downtonians across the land feared that this was the end of the Dowager, that she would die as she had lived, verbally sparring right there at the dining room table, choking on one of Mrs. Patmore’s dishes. We came thisclose to disaster! Thankfully it was a false alarm, because Henry Heimlich didn’t invent his maneuver until 1974. And it turns out that just like when Mary misjudged why Violet was upset Isobel might marry Lord Merton, we misjudged why she wants to halt the merger. She does have good and noble reasons to oppose the hospital merger. She believes it will mean less control for the village and more control by the State. It’s why the Magna Carta was delivered on tablets at Mount Sinai Hospital (Why didn’t you say that in the first place?), but the reality is, given how many people have to keep running down to London to see doctors and have simple procedures, they do need a better option in Downton. I know how to convince Violet: tell her a newer hospital might mean a cute doctor for Edith. That should perk her up!

Scarborough Fair: The Name Game:

Hallelujah! Carson and his true love Mrs. Carson return from their honeymoon to liberate the servant’s hall and there is much rejoicing. Truthfully, the welcome home party isn’t about their wedding so much as everyone is just glad to get out from under the oppressive thumb of Dear Leader Thomas. On a side note, we get to see what Robert’s idea of a wedding reception in the Servant’s Hall would have looked like (minus the pin the tail on the donkey that he, no doubt, would have chosen as entertainment, to save money on a band).  Everyone is having trouble with the whole Carson and Mrs. Carson tongue-twister name change. It’s yet another upheaval they will all have to adapt to. Lord Grantham was so thrown by it, that he had briefly toyed with the idea of calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2, but was brought to his senses by Branson. This modern world is chockablock with trap doors at every turn, but thankfully, at the end of the day, Carson used his superpowers (simple logic) to solve this problem, like so many others over the years: Thus, Carson and Mrs. Hughes they shall remain. That’s the only rule that is contrary. Afterwards, Carson stepped away to check his old single days room and looks a bit wistful to remove his name card from the door and leave it behind. What’s that about? Are they getting off to a rocky start? We’re not sure why Violet felt she needed Ariadne’s thread to find her way out of the kitchen. In Greek mythology Theseus needed the thread to find his way out of Minotaur’s labyrinth and escape being sacrificed. Did Violet think Mrs. Patmore was going to kill her and roast her for supper like a rack of lamb? Or is she afraid of the Bates? I don’t know, but hey-ho.

Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. Are you here to help or irritate?
  1. Well, nothing is impossible.
  1. Mary needs more than a handsome smile and a hand on the gear stick.
  1. I know more than you think.
  1. Really, Robert, you paint me as such a schemer. (The magic in this one was in the delivery)


 Do you ever work lines from Downton Abbey into your everyday conversations? It’s fun, if only for the quizzical looks it elicits. Your assignment this week is to use the word/phrase ‘hey-ho’ and report back on the reactions you get. Carry on.