Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 6 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | February 7, 2016

Downton Abbey Part Six. The hospital war reaches a climax. Violet goes on the warpath. Daisy tries to foil a romance. Prospects are looking up for Mary and Edith. Thomas feels trapped. Shown from left to right: Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary and Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot. Nick Briggs/Carnival Film for MASTERPIECE.

This week we learn that Mary, whose exacting standards are rivaled only by Violet and Carson, wants to encourage Edith’s beau, Brancaster Bertie, to compete on England’s Olympic Bore Team. Mary will have no trouble getting him a spot. She is the patron. She has found it to be a convenient way to dispose of her dull boys. But wait, are there openings on the Olympic team in other sports? Maybe Mary could secure some compensation for poor Thomas. Maybe there’s a two-man luge in his future! Hallelujah!

Old Grey Mare: Mr. Bubble: 

Lord Grantham survived the surgery and is recovering in bed looking like a pale raccoon. His brother from another mother, Carson, tries to bust him out with a flask. What is Carson trying to do, kill him? If he wasn’t before, he might now that Lord Grantham joked about how Lady Mary in the bath would have the open house crowds queuing up. Carson is horrified. He would never dare make that kind of joke at M’lady’s expense. He excuses himself, and slides down the banister to rush to his Lady Mary shrine to light a candle forthwith. That’s better. With the open house a foregone conclusion anyway, Robert is thinking more about the mutiny of the county and the impending wrath of mummy. The Dowager will undoubtedly find it disconcerting that the new hospital administration recommends she be tossed onto a barge and pushed out to sea. That’s gratitude for you! Making things worse, it was all with the full support of Clarkson and BFF Isobel. How times have changed: Remember when Isobel ground her teeth down to little nubs over Cora running the wartime Downton hospital? Now she thinks Cora is right for the job. After the initial shock, Cora decides she wants the post. She has already had one career, supervising the nannies who raised her children. Now she wants another. Naturally Robert discourages her and she is insulted. As Robert and Cora discuss the hospital shuffle and Violet’s dismissal, Baxter is in the room and Cora hastily tells her it’s a secret. Wait, suddenly they’re worried about what they say in front of the servants? Talk about closing the barn door after the O’Brien’s escaped!

At the open house a precocious little philosopher gets away from his parents, a sort of ghost of Christmas future, and asks a lot of nosy, yet sensible questions that get Lord Grantham to thinking and re-evaluating the trajectory of his life. Why should they live in this big house when this random child thinks it’s crazy? Where will all this lead? One doesn’t know, but Lord Executive Decision is now considering having him replace Murray.

Miss Understanding: If You’re Ever In a Jam, Here I Am: 

With Isobel, things are still tricky for Dickie. But ever the cockeyed optimist, Lord Merton still thinks he can turn her around and make her forget about the stench his two flaming brats left in the dining room at Downton. His latest trial balloon comes in the form of Miss Cruikshank, son Larry Grey’s new finance, who claims she wanted to meet Isobel to let her know that she is her friend. Say what? According to Miss Cruikshank, there seems to have been a misunderstanding with Larry Grey. A misunderstanding? Yes, and the Titanic took on a splash of water. Forgive me for sounding cynical about Miss Cruikshank, but what is her game? What’s Larry’s? Is she sincere or is she just as weaselly as he is? Is she only here because she’s being sent in off the bench (by her smarmy fiancé) to size up the enemy? Why do I have a feeling that there is more to this – like something to Larry Grey’s benefit? Why do I suspect there is a money trail or something of that sort afoot? Do I just need to learn to be more trusting of my fellow man?

Laughter In The Rain: If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Jumped Out of a Cake:

Mary is begging someone, anyone, to come clean to her about the Marigold secret. Begging. She is certainly giving both Anna and Tom enough rope to hang themselves. Maybe because she would see their behavior as the biggest betrayal – because she feels the closest to them – she is giving them chance after chance to disprove her doubts. Is she just keeping her powder dry (with everyone) and waiting for her moment because she knows revenge is a dish best served cold? Or does she still have no idea about the scope and what to make of it all? Or is she simply too distracted by the shiny object that is Mr. Snappy Chariot to bother for the moment?

Anna is showing, but she has issues. Her latest pregnancy troubles happen to come along at just the right time. Mary feels like a jaunt so it’s time for another gyno road trip with Tom riding shotgun. I’m sensing a subtle shift in their relationship though. Do you see it too? Mary is a little less giddy. She also, clearly, doesn’t like it when Anna sides with Branson over the Dr. Ryder bill. She doesn’t accompany her to see Ryder this time; she just sits waiting for Anna to return and dress her. And did I detect a hint of sarcasm, when she said to Anna, “I thought I was going to have to dress myself”? Do you agree? Mary is clearly trying to lead her into the topic of Marigold and what she knows about it. When Mary mentions how well Marigold fit in to the nursery, it sounded like Anna was about to say it was because they’re all related before she caught herself – which actually would have been be a dumb reason for her to fit in given how the related Mary and Edith get along so well. And when Mary says how sweet Thomas is with the children and asks Anna if she thinks he is just trying to get in with them, I couldn’t help but wonder if a part of Mary thinks that of PollyAnna’s sweetness now. Though maybe ‘fears’ would be more accurate than ‘thinks’. Anyway, Anna’s problem (aside from losing Mary’s trust), has something to do with ligaments, and Mary don’t know nothing about birthing ligaments because she had George before ligaments were invented, proving that what she said two weeks ago about learning nothing in school besides French, prejudice and dance steps was actually true.

Cupid/bubbie Tom is great for giving Mary the male point of view. I dare say that if she’d had Tom around to give her advice years ago (instead of Aunt Rosamund), her romance with Matthew would have run more smoothly. But once she stops dancing around the topic of Marigold, will he be tossed onto the betrayal pile? For now though, he comes along to the Big Night Out on a dare. Maybe he wanted to accompany Mary, or maybe he wanted to talk cars with Snappy and Charlie, or maybe he was hoping there’d be a singleton at the dinner for him. He can only be Mary’s Bubbie for so long. He’s an eligible male (i.e.: he’s breathing), and post-war that makes him a catch. It’s about time he took his bad self out for a spin, is it not? Mary’s appearance is a happy surprise for Mr. Snappy Chariot, though from the look on his face, I’d say Charlie Rodgers is not as happy that Mary was the big surprise. Neither is that woman Mrs. McVeigh who keeps glaring at her from across the table. Maybe she’s a friend of potential serial killer Mabel Lane Fox. Or maybe she was interested in Snappy for herself. Or maybe she just doesn’t like the way Mary takes possession of the table as soon as she walks in. And when the party ends, poor besotted Evelyn Napier, Lord of Darling, has to watch as yet another man walks away with his Mary. That face! Poor Evelyn. He needs to give it up and realize she’s just not that into him. And that’s too bad too; even though he’s not Mr. Excitement he would have made her a very loyal partner. But he never stood a chance; he’s got no theme music. For his part, Snappy Chariot is wasting no time in talking love and marriage. He moves fast! He also covers his mouth when he giggles like a little girl. Is it because Mary is such a great catch (i.e.: rich)? Mary does think he makes a compelling argument and asks him to draw up papers so she can have Murray respond. If Mary and Snappy do walk down the aisle, I hope they don’t ask Evelyn Napier to be a bridesmaid. That just might push him over the edge.

Meet the Parents: God Bless Us Every One:

Edith is trying to help her dear sister maintain her svelte figure by turning her off every restaurant in the capitol. She has also gone back to sniping at said sister, completely unaware as to how dangerous that is at this precarious moment in time. Even car mechanic Tom gets caught in the crossfire though he is too amused to take any real offense. But Edith will soon have something else to distract her; at Cora’s suggestion, Edith invites Beau Bertie to Downton. Up until now, Bertie has only existed in her other life, the smart, parallel life she lives in London. Now he’s coming face to face with Downton and as it turns out, he couldn’t have come at a better time. His organizational skills saved the open house, kind of the same way Editor Charming saved Lord Grantham’s bacon with his card sharp skills. Edith’s beaus do come in handy! She shows him Marigold, as she is sweetly sleeping in the nursery, but gives nothing away. In time, will she? Or will Mary beat her to it? Might she wait too long and lose the chance to tell Bertie herself the way Anna and Tom have (maybe) lost the chance to tell Mary themselves? Ah well, let’s not borrow trouble. For now it’s smooth sailing, and ooh, did you see that look on Bertie’s face when Mary sniped at Edith? Another ally at last. An ally with automatic kisses. While Mary goes for excitement, Edith goes for automatic (though we think she means natural). Robert and Cora do fret a bit about Bertie’s prospects, with Robert saying Edith’s stock is up, that she might become one of the interesting women of the day. That’s a turnaround! Remember back in Season 1, when Robert and Cora were discussing the girls’ prospects, they predicted that Edith would be taking care of them in their old age? It seems like she won’t be left to that fate after all. (Kine-hora, pooh-pooh!)

Pink Slip: Nowhere Man:

While Trafalgar Square is still guillotine-less, Carson just stepped onto a scaffold of a different sort and dropped the sharp end of the blade onto Thomas. It had long since been decided that Thomas would be first on the chopping block (aside from all those extras at the end of the table who never spoke), and when Lord Grantham finally said it was time to get on with simplifying the household, Thomas’ time well and truly ran out. He has got his marching orders but he knows not where he’s going to. It is understandable why Thomas would be upset. Any issues they had, that they wanted to fire him over, are in the distant past, and he has seniority over Andy and Molesley, and even Bates. He’s also Master George’s hobby horse, and if he goes, poor Mary will have to play with her son herself. She does speak up for him, but it’s all for naught. With Thomas there is always that big pink elephant in the room. We knew it was going to happen: As soon as Thomas and Andy decided to keep those reading classes secret, it was only a matter of time before someone saw and thought they had discovered something funny going on.  When confronted, Thomas does the noble thing and doesn’t give Andy’s secret away. Or maybe he’s not noble. Maybe he’s just so angry at having to justify himself yet again that he doesn’t feel he should have to answer, and he’d already gotten the push anyway, so why bother? As much as they say they are ‘tolerant’ of him being gay, they are really not. Doing the wrong thing gets him nowhere and doing the right thing gets him nowhere. What is he to do?

And here is something I wonder about, with regard to the disappearing staff: They used to have all those servants bustling about, working from sun-up to sundown and often past that; who’s doing all that work now? Are things just not getting done? Will Mrs. Hughes even be necessary when there is no longer an army of maids to manage?

Curiosity Shoppe: Hey, Hey We’re the Monkeys:

As Downton is about to fling open its doors for all and sundry, it is only natural that Carson, the man who thought the appearance of a toaster heralded the arrival of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, would connect the dots between selling tickets to allow the hoi polloi to visit the drawing room and sending the Crawley family to the guillotine in Trafalgar Square. It makes perfect sense when you explain it that way, doesn’t it? Robert and Violet don’t fear the chop; they just question why anyone would want to visit such an ordinary house. Why, many a tract house development has homes just like it. Isobel reminds Violet that people are curious, that even Elizabeth Bennett tipped the butler to look around Pemberley (which must have been what Orange Julius did last season after he was caught in Lord and Lady Grantham’s bedroom and had to scarper. That was the one and only time we ever saw anyone tip Carson.) But no use complaining; the mad open house scheme had already been decided by Mary anyway, and Lady Mary rules all she surveys with an iron fist.

Thankfully, Edith’s Beau Bertie was on-hand to organize the event or the plundering hoards would have picked the place clean. Bertie has a brain for business and he says they need tour guides who know about the house to bring small groups through. Who knows about the house? Downton librarian Mr. Pattinson knows, but he is away…again. Every time Mr. Pattinson is mentioned he is away. I wonder if he is Madge’s boyfriend. And by the way, why do they still have a librarian anyway? Why don’t they fire Mr. Pattinson? But let’s not quibble. The day arrives and as their house becomes a museum, and people come to see ‘em, they really are a scream, that Crawley family. As it turns out, they don’t know much about history, or biology – or their own house! And the tourists coming through on tour sound just like every annoying person on House Hunters. But in the end the day was a big success, and even though the Crawley family tour guides didn’t have all the facts and figures at the ready, they did give the village people something to talk about. Or, at least, Violet did.

Even though Violet was (naturally) upset at Robert’s emergency blood spewing episode last week, the pragmatist in her saw a silver lining; she was sure it would convince everyone that keeping the village hospital independent was the best idea. Little did she know that the merger was already done and dusted. Adding insult to injury, she has been deposed in a bloodless coup: York Hospital wants Cora to be President. Yikes! This is going to be a tough one, given Violet’s special relationship with the patients, “As President I am their representative on earth. They all keep little statues of me on their dashboards; those who have dashboards. Those who do not have dashboards are branded, with my visage, on their hind quarters in gratitude for my years of selfless devotion.” Very tidy. Unfortunately for Violet, Vince Lombardi had not yet uttered the words, “When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” So she had already commanded Denker to dump a teapot of Gatorade over Sprat’s head and was ready to spike the ball in victory when York Hospital administrator Lucy Van Pelt snatched it away, causing Violet to burst into the open house and use the scythe she borrowed from cousin Ross Poldark to get through the crowd in the library and confront Cora and Robert. Thankfully she kept her shirt on.

The open house a bittersweet success, causing the family to reflect on their alien sideshow lifestyle. All this time they just thought they were regular shmoes. Mary doesn’t like all this weakling talk. She and George are made of sterner stuff. Yes, she is made of indestructible materials developed by NASA. She is a believer, but while she may say that she and George are not going anywhere, that there is not a trace of doubt in her mind – her face says something else entirely. Is it the fear of not being able to hang on to Downton after all, of everyone giving up around her? Or the fear of the unknown that might come after? It seems like Mary is the only person, upstairs or down, who has never considered what a Downton-less life would look like. Everyone else has been busy making plans. If things don’t go her way she may find herself up the creek without a Plan B, and renting a room from Mrs. Patmore. But hey Mary Scarlett, let’s think about that tomorrow. For now let’s look on the bright side: The hospital event was a big success, hundreds of the great unwashed came traipsing through, and so far there are no guillotines in sight. (Bad harvest!)

FYI: Got a Condo Made of Stone-ah:

The real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, did not begin opening for charitable days such as these until after WWII. And it didn’t start earning the money to wash its own face (thank you Branson) with visitor tours until 1989. Interestingly, the lines were actually longer then than they are today because of the Egyptian exhibit telling the story of the 5th Earl who, along with Howard Carter, discovered King Tut. I visited Highclere Castle myself a few years ago when I took my first trip to London. (You can read about my trip here: part 1 and part 2.)  If you are going to the UK, you will not regret making the jaunt to Highclere Castle (and you know you want too)! It’s a pretty amazing day out. But if you can’t make the pilgrimage in person, now you can visit Highclere Castle virtually, through their new app, which just launched last month. What would Carson say to that pray tell?

Grey Lady: The Love Boat:

The Patmore B&B is about to have its grand opening! Mrs. Patmore is blazing a trail; she now owns a home, a business and a telephone. She’s practically an astronaut! Mr. Mason is a bit smitten with her, but according to Daisy, she is too curious for her own good and keeps trying to warn him off. In retrospect, it might not have been such a good idea to keep Daisy hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on the back porch whenever she was off-duty. It seems to have stunted her emotional growth. Daisy is no more mature today than she was in season 1 (when she grated the soap into the soup in silent protest over her irrational thought that Mrs. Patmore might be getting sacked). Now, as predicted, she doesn’t like having to share Mr. Mason and she is taking a page out of Larry Grey’s book and doing every bratty thing she can to stand in the way of the love train. When she can’t dissuade Mr. Mason from sending Mrs. Patmore a letter, instead of delivering it, impetuous Daisy reads it then tosses it, stupidly, right where Mrs. Patmore finds it. She’s rumbled. Mr. Mason should have just put the letter in the post. The mailman doesn’t pass judgment on your love life. Right about now Mrs. Patmore might be regretting talking Daisy out of moving to London. If only this were a Disney film and Daisy was played by Hayley Mills, she would be glad for her surrogate mum to get together with her surrogate dad. But it’s not. How far will she take this and will she be the ultimate loser in the end?

On the Molesley front things are looking up. The headmaster has an idea and wants Molesley to sit for a general knowledge test right alongside Daisy. What it might lead to, he hasn’t yet said yet.  Hopefully all of this ends up better for Molesley than that time he talked and talked a good game over the cricket, then choked on the day. Maybe he hasn’t missed the boat after all. Maybe he’ll leave Downton to become a teacher. Maybe he’ll become George, Sybbie and Marigold’s teacher. In this new world, will they be schooled by a governess at home or will they go to school with the other children in the village? Either way, he should brush up on his dance steps.

Crispy Critter: Old Dog, New Tricks:

Tricks are for kids which may be why Carson is proving himself to be rather un-trainable in the trick of domestic bliss department. There are no two ways about it: He’s an annoying putz and he has no clue. He cannot read the wifey at all. Most hubbies, no matter how dense, would hear those dishes slam and think, uh-oh. But not our smug married Mr. Carson. He has got zero E.Q. He complains about the food, the coffee, the housekeeping, the reception on the wireless (forcing her to have to spend her evenings with one hand on the radio and the other holding a fork up in the air). At this point the sound of his voice is like nails on a blackboard. Everything must be ship shape, Bristol fashion, and up to his very exacting standards – and it is entirely Mrs. Hughes’ responsibility to do it. No matter that he’s spent fifty years living in a dingy little room in the attic. Now that he’s got his own little castle, his royal residence must have sparkling silver and sharp corners. How is one supposed to be able to perform one’s husbandly duties if one cannot bounce a quarter off the taut sheets and see one’s reflection in the silver service on the sideboard? One means, really. Is the duck’s skin not crispy enough for your liking? Berate the cook. No fresh lemon for the smoked salmon? Push it away. Who turns up their nose at a perfectly good bit of lox? Forget about the posh lemon wedge. What would be nice with that fancy schmancy lox is a bagel and a schmear! Where’s Mrs. Levinson when you need her? On top of that, poor Mrs. Hughes can’t even take the edge off with a nice glass of wine at dinner because Carson insists they give up drinking in solidarity with His Lordship. Just how long will it be before Mrs. Hughes snaps? Any bookies out there? I think we need to get a pool going. We’ve got four episodes left; in which one of them will the foie gras finally hit the fan? I’m thinking it’s episode nine. The very last one. In fact, here’s my prediction for the final scene of the final Downton Abbey episode: The setting, the Carson’s cottage kitchen. The scene begins with a close-up on Mrs. Hughes’ face. She tilts her head ever so slightly, and smiles as she sighs a relieved sigh. She continues to smile that contented smile as the camera slowly pulls back and we see Mr. Carson, roasting on a spit as she is turning it, and she says, “Yeeesss, nice and crispy!” Cue the piano.

The Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. Why should anyone pay to see a perfectly ordinary house?
  1. Don’t worry. I shall be magnanimous in victory.
  1. Please tell Cora I do not wish to see her face until I get used to having a traitor in the family.
  1. I’ll leave it at interesting for now.
  1. I am sick and tired of logic! If I could choose between principal and logic, I’d choose principle every time!**

**In this election year, it seems there are quite a few who feel exactly the same way as The Dow G on that score.

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