Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 7 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | February 14, 2016

OK, when there was all that palava with Isobel, all nervous, waiting in the library for the returning warriors, and then Consigliere Sprat turned up with a mysterious goodbye gift from The Dowager that they couldn’t bring upstairs, did anyone else think it was going to be a horse’s head? That Mary was going to go tearing down to the stables to find poor Diamond had met an unfortunate fate? I can’t be the only one who thought that, can I? Anyway, it was just a cute widdle puppy that they only feared bringing upstairs because it wasn’t yet housebroken. (Coincidentally, that’s the same reason they don’t let Daisy upstairs.) But who doesn’t wuv a widdle puppy?

In other news, someone finally tells Aunt Rosamund to shut up! I have been waiting for someone to tell that interfering old bat to shut up since season one. Thank you, Robert! Well done you! This was a week of revelations all around. Let’s tuck in…

Anchors Away: My Mummy, She Wrote Me a Letter:

Violet has finally done it; she has run away from home. Still angry over the hospital coup, and already having had one unfortunate public meltdown, at the open house where she came close to wiping out dozens of villagers as she cut a swath through the library, she thought it best that she take leave of the country before she blew another gasket and took leave of her senses altogether. So she set sail on a three hour tour on the S.S. Paris to visit Lord and Lady Howell in Cannes. She skipped the goodbyes, but before she went she left behind some letters, all S.W.A.K., including one gingerly delivered by Isobel – and a lovely parting gift of that furry little buddy for Robert. In case anyone needs to reach her, she left instructions with Tom because he’s the most sensible. (Wow, that’s quite a change from Season 3, when she feared leaving him home alone when they all went to Shrimpy’s!)  Not to sound too professorial, but the S.S. Paris was the largest French ocean liner of its day. Completed in 1921, it was the most luxurious of the French ships, which were known as the aristocrats of the ocean. Unfortunately, in 1939 it was lost; while in dock it caught fire and sank. But this is only 1925, so Violet should be fine unless she (or Denker) causes an international incident. Then all bets are off.

House Hunters: Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don’t:

No one can withstand the questioning of Violet Crawley, PI. It only took moments in her presence before Miss Amelia broke and revealed her true self. Gone is the earnest Girl Scout, the friend to all. In her place a greedy little madam holds her ground. I was right about Miss Cruikshank. She is up to no good. She wasn’t being ‘friendly’ because wants to play matchmaker for Dickie and Isobel; she’s merely exhibiting Larry-level smarm because she thinks she’s got herself a catch – and now she wants rid of her catch’s tiresome, old Daddy so his estate will be all hers (and lowlife-Larry’s). They are out to steal Lord Merton’s house out from under him. How did these two sociopaths meet? Did Larry Grey place a classified ad in the Village Voice? Something like, ‘Soon to be wealthy SWM seeks discreet SWF interested in awkward dinner conversation, highway robbery, and sodomy. Must have proper resting b-face. Help me speed things along. Only Aryans need apply.’ However they met, Miss Amelia and Master Larry are perfect for each other, and poor Dickie has no idea he’s just a pawn in their scam. As we’ve seen before, Lord Merton doesn’t see his sons, Leopold and Loeb, for what they really are, so no doubt it is the same with his future daughter-in-law. Isobel has now got quite the Sophie’s Choice on her hands.

But now that Violet and Isobel know about this greedy scheme, will they let Dickie know what they’ve discovered so he can finally disinherit his ne’er-do-well mongrels and banish them from his Earldom (without a penny) once and for all? I doubt Isobel will do it as she has repeatedly said she doesn’t want to come between Dickie and his two shades of Grey. But Violet is another story. We know that before she left she wrote at least two letters: Might there have been a third? Might there be a juicy little letter left behind for Lord Merton that sets the cat amongst the pigeons? Something that will cause Miss Amelia to ruin her manicure? And if she didn’t, didn’t they say Larry Grey works in finance in London? Maybe we’ll all be lucky and before the end of play he’ll be arrested and imprisoned for whatever fraud he is (no doubt) involved in at the office. We live in hope.

One thinks that this quadrangle could make yet another future Downton Abbey spin-off mini -series in which Isobel marries Dickie and moves into the big house, and Amelia and Larry toast them with some elderberry wine. Then promptly set about (repeatedly) trying to kill him – continually foiled by Isobel, (she being the Road Runner to their Wile E. Coyote). Or (if not that) at least a guest shot on Dr. Who in which the good doctor takes them all time traveling, back to one of those past centuries when Larry’s ‘misunderstood’ comments to Isobel would result in him being called out and shot. Result! Like I said…hope.

Be True to Your School: What Kind of Fool Am I?:

Wow, all this time, right under our noses, we’ve had a genius in our midst: Molesley! The test results are in and he aced it. According to Headmaster Dawes, there are Oxford and Cambridge grads who know less than our Mr. Molesley. When you think about it, this has been percolating all along. Back as far as Season 1 Molesley wanted to talk books with Anna. At the time we assumed he was just hitting on her but maybe he actually did just want to talk books. Mr. Molesley’s story mirrors that of many of that era, bright students who had no choice but to leave school and start earning at a young age to help support the family. A job in service was considered respectable, and likely his family considered school a pie in the sky dream when the practicality of a paying job beckoned. Now, all these years later he is getting his big chance to do what he always wanted. That boat he thought he missed has come back around and he is offered a teaching job at the village school! For Molesley, the downstairs Edith, who thought everything in life had passed him by, this sudden jolt of good fortune takes some getting used to. It’s quite poignant, really, and it gives hope to us all. Something (or someone) else he doesn’t want to miss out on, Baxter, still can’t decide about whether to go see Mr. Coyle or not. Hopeful (potential) flame Molesley recommends not, but she says it’s unfinished business. She wants to make sure that Coyle no longer has any power over her, not realizing that if she is still sitting there spending all this time fretting about whether to go see him or not (at his invitation), he does.

On the other end of the educational scale, Andy still wants to help out at Mr. Mason’s farm but as Murphy’s Law would have it, the first task Mr. Mason asks him to do is the books. Kind of an odd first job, but OK. Still not able to read, Andy has to pretend that he really only took the time to stop by to say he doesn’t have the time to stop by. But then at the exam day picnic Daisy unwittingly reveals all by asking him to read something out loud. His secret is well and truly exposed. He has to admit to everyone that he can’t read; that Thomas has been trying to teach him, causing a thought bubble to pop up over Mrs. Patmore’s head that says simply, “OOOOPS! My bad!” Mr. Dawes assures him that he’s not the fool he thinks he is (that would be snoopy Patmore), and that with a few lessons a week he’ll be reading in no time. Good news for Andy, bad news for Thomas who just lost his teaching gig and the reason he had for someone to speak to him. With his illiteracy secret, Andy was an outsider like Thomas. Now he’s going inside in a way Thomas cannot.

I’m OK, You’re OK: The Power of Positive Shrinking:

This week we heard Andy say, “I am nothing”, Molesley say, “I never think I deserve anything”, Cora once again say she has no say in the decisions that affect her life, that what they do about their London house is, “not my decision” and whether Robert goes to Brooklands when he’s convalescing is, “not for me to say”, and Edith say she’s, “not the sort of girl men go mad about.” Ladies and gentlemen, what we’ve got going on here are some serious self-esteem issues. Maybe the new York Hospital has some group therapy they can all join in. They could easily carpool.

Roots: String Theory:

As it turns out, it might be Thomas that they have to drag out as he breaks his fingernails catching at the door case. He hasn’t been able to find a new situation yet, and Carson keeps making it quite clear that it’s not fair on Lord If I Hadn’t Spent So Much Money Gambling On Choo-Choo Trains This Might Not Be An Issue to string it out. At least Mrs. Hughes has some kind words for despondent Thomas. She tries to encourage him by  telling him he just hasn’t found the right person yet; that there is a lid for every pot and maybe with a new job in a new place he’ll find that ‘friend’ he’s looking for. A new ‘friend’ would be nice because as far as we know, Thomas hasn’t had a ‘friend’ since his summer with the Duke of Crowborough in 1912! There was the recent glimmer of companionship with Andy as Thomas tried to teach him to read. Each with their own secret, they were kindred spirits in a way. But now with Mr. Dawes stepping in and asking Thomas to step back, he is shut out yet again. For a moment he had a friend there. Not that kind of friend, but a connection. And once again, while everyone else celebrates, this time Molesley’s results, Thomas sits sadly apart, maybe wondering if anyone notices that he’s missing. He is always in the tiny fishbowl, looking out at the rest of the world.

It’s a Funny Old Life: That’s How the Apple Crumbles:

Charles and Elsie decide to see how the other half lives – or at least, how the other half’s tushies live. In a move as daring and gallant as any on the racetrack, after some come on, live a little-type egging on from his new bride, and with much sober deliberation, Mr. Charles Carson allows his hind quarters to slowly descend to the red velvet cushions whose lush fuzziness had hitherto only tickled the most aristocratic of bums. There goes the neighborhood. What the heck is going on? Carson and Mrs. Hughes are sitting on the couches upstairs and the Crawleys are once again running downstairs en masse: with all this up the down staircase mixing, I don’t know who I am anymore! What’s the world coming to?

And then there’s Thelma and Louise (AKA Patmore and Hughes) who conspire to use a sneaky bit of reverse psychology (or maybe it’s child psychology) on smug married Carson and give him a burdensome taste of his own cooking. The benefit: Carson installs a phone at the cottage so they can call out for pizza.

You Can Count On Me: Flush, Flush and Away:

Mrs. Patmore is poised to become a hotel tycoon. She’s offering guests indoor plumbing and a Full English. You can’t ask better than that, and she’s got her first paying customers. But what’s with the guy hiding outside in the bushes? Does he not realize they’ve got an indoor privy? And why is he taking notes and pictures? Is he from a tabloid? Is he spying on Mrs. Patmore, or her guests? And while her misunderstanding interference caused problems for Thomas and Andy, she gives sage advice to Daisy, who reveals something of her own insecurities this week, when told she needs to share. Daisy confirms the underlying reason why she’s been in full assault Jane Withers mode over Mrs. Patmore getting closer to Mr. Mason. Daisy is no Larry Grey. It’s not about money. It’s just that she was never special to anyone but William, and now Mr. Mason, and she fears she’ll lose the only family she’s ever had. She has had a father in Mr. Mason, and she has had a mother in Mrs. Patmore, but she fears that if the two of them get together, it will be threes company and she will be out. But Mrs. Patmore assures her that she can count on both of them, and gave us one of her best Patmore-isms: Love isn’t finite. Well said Mrs. Patmore, well said. Love many be evasive, messy and complicated, but it’s never finite. Cupid, draw back your bow!

Risky Business: The Circle Game:

Lady Mary is too sensible to be interested in sex. That is the conclusion of Lord All Evidence to the Contrary, forgetting about the cash payout he recently had to make to keep his too sensible daughter’s exploits away from the tabloids – not to mention the fact that she almost married someone she didn’t even love to keep her exploits away from those tabloids. Never mind all that. What has Snappy got? One supposes you’ll find out eventually, Robert, because every time one of the Crawley daughters has sex it causes some kind of catastrophe their parents have to hear about. As for Snappy Talbot, after being so bold as to invite the entire Crawley mishpacha to a day at the races, he crashes Aunt Rosamund’s dinner party and says he’d rather spend it with the ladies than the men, causing Lord Say What? to bring up Lord Byron again. This is the second week in a row that Robert has mentioned Lord Byron, this time comparing him to Snappy Talbot. For Mary’s sake he should hope Snappy is not like Lord Byron, who had numerous conquests of both sexes, two illegitimate children and created the character Don Juan. Not exactly husband material, but then we’ve seen worse. As Mary and Snappy continue to go around and around, Mary asks Anna’s advice about him. She hesitantly tells Mary she’s not sure they fit together. For her honesty, on this matter at least, she and Bates are relegated to riding the train and sleeping in twin beds like Lucy and Ricky.

At the track, those Crawleys really know how to tailgate. Not satisfied with a simple PB&J, they tear a pheasant and serve champers in crystal stemmed glasses – none of which helps Mary as she announces she’s constipated; her digestive system has packed up completely (one believes this falls under the heading, T.M.I.) But as soon as she jinxes the drivers with mention of a witches curse, there’s a loud crash and Mary’s digestive system unpacks rather rapidly. It’s a horrific crash. Evelyn Napier had stuck a pin in his newest doll, a Henry Talbot doll, and missed. Sadly it’s Rogers, over and out.  With the loss of his best friend, Talbot has survivor’s guilt, causing him to ask himself the big questions, and ask things of Mary (who also has guilt for feeling glad it wasn’t Snappy who was killed), that she is not prepared to give.

For Snappy, all that’s best of dark and bright meet in Mary’s aspect and her eyes. He just can’t quit her. It is a carpe diem moment for him, but not for Mary. For her it’s a Matthew flashback. Snappy picks the wrong moment to call and say, “hello, it’s me” and push her, and she picks the wrong moment to tell him it wasn’t meant to be, that she doesn’t want him to give up anything – except her. Tom tells her she’s making a mistake, she needs understand she is letting her fear of being hurt rule her. He tells her she needs to understand that she will be hurt again, that being hurt is part of being alive, but she should not give up. Listen to him, Mary! Remember, he’s the one who convinced Matthew to make that wedding eve plea that saved your wedding! Tom always gives the best advice. Violet is right. He is the most sensible, (though, among the Crawleys you’re grading on a step curve there, but still).   If there is a silver lining to the horror, it is that this tragedy caused Mary and Edith to drop the sniping for a few moments and actually support each other, as sisters should. Just like when Sybil died. If only someone died every episode these two would get along just fine.

Will contrary Mary hold fast to her fears and doubts and leave Snappy by the roadside or will she take Tom’s advice? Is this truly the end of Marbot? Ah well. If so, there’s always good old reliable (darling) Evelyn Napier. He’s eager and he’d do the job credibly. To quote the great philosopher, Lord Ricardo, “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi!”

Mad About You: The Tender Trap:

While in London to race at Brooklands, Edith stops by the office to check on her chain smoking Lady Editor, Laura Edmunds. Miss Edmunds suggests a new advice column by someone named Cassandra Jones because women will think it’s so funny to have someone tell them they need to solve their marital problems by checking with mirror, mirror on the wall. I’d say it’s better to check with solicitor, solicitor on the case, but then that’s just me. Anyway, since there is no HR Department to protect her new employee, after this meeting Edith exposes her to the night terror of meeting her family, where Aunt Rosamund asks Miss Edmunds whether it’s hard to be a woman editor. She answers that she’s never been a male editor so she has nothing to compare it too. Point, set, match, Lady Editor. Hey, who needs Cassandra Jones? Miss Edmunds has already got it in the bag.

To Bertie, Lady Edith walks in beauty, like the night, and after a horrid day at the races, he pops the question and she pops one right back: “Can I bring Marigold with me?” “Marigold? Your family’s ward?” “Yes, our ward.” So Edith misses another chance, the perfect opening, to tell Bertie the truth about Marigold. And she doesn’t give him an answer about the nuptials either. She sends him off with a kiss, saying she has to think about it which made me want to yell, “Hello! Earth to Edith! Don’t wait! Say Yes now!” But then I realized she probably just had the idea to run home and grab Papa’s gun to shoot Bertie in the leg so he can’t run (she’s been down that road before). Smart cookie – in that respect at least. But not smart in not coming clean about Marigold. What do we know about secrets? They always come out eventually. Tick tock, tick tock. It is just a matter of time. When Bertie speaks about love being allowed to weigh in the balance, it seems everything will work out alright. But this is Edith we are talking about. Every time I see Mary look at Edith I think it’s about to hit the fan. It’s the way Mary’s cold, dead eyes settle on Edith whenever the topic of Bertie comes up. We have seen those eyes before. Those are the eyes of a great white shark; they are the last thing a swimmer sees before they become an hors d’oeuvre. Right now great white Mary may be circling around her sisterly prey: Will she swim away, or, now that she’s got a broken heart and Edith is happy, will she bite? I don’t know, but somehow I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

The Dowager Countessdown: Violet’s Best Quips:

  1. Nobody’s always friendly.
  1. Larry Grey has spoken to Mrs. Crawley in a manner that in any other century would have resulted in him being called out and shot.
  1. You’re a cool little Miss, aren’t you?
  1. My reason for traveling is to make myself eager to come home. A month among the French should handle it.
  1. I’m quite a tough nut cracker.