RECAP: Scandal in Yorkshire on DOWNTON ABBEY - Ep. 6
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by Lauren Robbins
It was double Downton this week on PBS. But for those of you who may have missed the two-hour episode, here is a brief recap of what happened!
At dawn, Anna waits anxiously in the Crawleys' car outside the prison in York. Inside, the guards unlock a series of doors for John Bates. When at last the front gates open, Anna gets out of the car and rushes toward her husband, embracing him without supervision for the first time in months. The wait is over; Bates is free.
Driving up the road toward Downton Abbey, the sight of the Castle is a welcome one for Mr. Bates. It means home and a future with Anna are finally within his grasp after months of injustice and anguish. In the house, his friends both upstairs and down are delighted to welcome him back. Robert Is particularly glad to see his old war mate. He is happy the whole mess is through and pleased to have his valet back. Which raises the issue of Thomas' future.
It seems Thomas will be out of his job, but perhaps not out of the house. That is, until O'Brien orchestrates his ultimate ruin. One night she happens upon a conversation between Jimmy and Thomas in the Servant's Hall. Though it was perfectly innocent (at least on Jimmy's part), O'Brien insists to Thomas that he was being flirtatious and further, that he is constantly hinting to Alfred that he is romantically interested. At first, Thomas refuses to believe her, but later that night when he is alone in his room, her words prey on his mind and he decides to take a chance.
The next day, tension is high between the three men. Thomas is for once attempting politeness toward Alfred, and Jimmy wants nothing to do with either of them. But O'Brien has not finished meddling yet. She persuades her nephew to raise the issue with Carson. Always the staunch conservative, he is appalled by what Alfred recounts to him. His reaction is a harsh reminder of the intolerance that existed in Interwar England; it was in fact a punishable crime for a man to carry out acts of a homosexual nature. It is in this context that we must view Carson's resolution as lenient. Since Bates is set to return to his former position anyway and Carson wants to both avoid Scandal and give Thomas the prospect of a future career, he proposes that Thomas resign and seek employment elsewhere with a generous recommendation from him.
For Sarah O'Brien though, it is not enough for Thomas to simply lose his job. Therefore, she convinces Jimmy that if he does not take the punishment a step further, people might think "there's something funny about [him]" too. Jimmy, determined to maintain his good name, threatens to go to the police if Carson does not give Thomas a bad reference.
Thomas is devastated at the news. With Jimmy's ultimatum in the balance, Carson can do nothing but comply in order to keep another Downton valet out of prison. When Mrs. Hughes discovers Thomas crying, she insists that he tell her what happened. Bates also suspects trouble and goes to Mrs. Hughes for the scoop. Once Thomas' greatest adversary, Bates now has a new lease on life and wishes to help him out of his misery. He "[knows] what it is to feel powerless" from his stint behind bars, and does not wish it on anyone, not even Thomas. With a sneaking suspicion that O'Brien is behind this nasty scheme, an opinion he voices to Lord Grantham along with the rest of the story, he goes to Thomas to work out a plan for redemption. But Thomas has all but given up, reconciling himself to the idea of going abroad to seek employment. Bates is not so quick to quit. He asks Thomas for any information he could use as Leverage against O'Brien.
Armed with a single phrase, Bates arranges a meeting with O'Brien at his new cottage with Anna. Over tea, he confronts her about her involvement in Thomas' demise. Though she tries to deny it at first, when he whispers the phrase into her ear, she immediately changes her attitude. Later that day she speaks with Jimmy and convinces him to Grant Thomas clemency. In doing so, he will have both made a strong statement about his personal beliefs and proven himself to be a compassionate soul. Jimmy, who was against making such a racket in the first place, is relieved to leave the whole ordeal in the past and let Thomas move on to a new home. But Lord Grantham has a different plan in mind. Perhaps primarily because he wants desperately to keep the star of his cricket team, but also partly to keep the peace, he asks that Carson keep Thomas on staff. It takes some coaxing, but Bates finally agrees to the idea of Thomas being made under butler (though it may be a slightly higher position), but getting Jimmy to come around is a task left up to the Earl of Grantham himself.
Scandal leaves no class untouched this week. With the arrival of the vivacious Rose at the Dowager's house comes the trials and tribulations of youth...and then some. When Violet agrees to take her great-niece into her charge, she has no clue just how full her hands will be. At Rose's first dinner at Downton, she finds out that Edith will be traveling to London and asks to tag along. Despite Violet's protestation, she insists she must go, inventing a story that she is arranging a surprise for her mother. Edith is not duped and when Matthew asks to come along as well, she is glad of the extra support.
When the trio arrives at Aunt Rosamund's house Rose immediately slinks away to use the telephone to organize a mysterious rendezvous in Warwick Square. When she misses dinner, Rosamund is peeved, but when a taxi driver is brought into the dining room with information on the teenager's whereabouts, she is livid. Rosamund, Edith and Matthew find her at a jazz club, The Blue Dragon, making quite a shameful display with a married man. When they confront Rose, she comes up with the sub-par justification that her companion, Mr. Terence Margadale, is an old family friend who has a dreadful wife. Far from amused, Rosamund is about to unleash the sharp tongue of measured invective she no doubt learned from her mother when Matthew swoops in and carries Rose off to the dance floor to strike a bargain. Always the hero "on the side of the downtrodden", he does her a deal- be through with Mr. Margadale, at least until she is no longer the Crawleys' responsibility, and he will guarantee the two ladies' silence on her sordid affair. With all parties in (reluctant) agreement, Rose leaves London virtually unscathed.
But what the Dowager wishes to know, the Dowager will no doubt find out. Overhearing a conversation between Rose and Edith, Violet deduces that there may be a secret to uncover. When she learns what actually had transpired in London, she contacts Lady Flintshire, Rose's mother, and arranges a new plan for the young mischief-maker- she is to go to Duneagle, the family's house in Scotland, with her Aunt Agatha as a chaperone. Rose is horrified to find there is no way out of this situation. With her signature smug look of victory, the Dowager proves she can still keep the rebellious youth in line.
When she isn't reining in the wild child while in London, Edith is attending to the matter of her first article for The Sketch. Her first meeting with the editor, a Mr. Michael Gregson, was quite pleasant and she accepted the job as the "balanced female voice in debate". On this trip to the city, Edith finds that Mr. Gregson likes more than just her writing, an exciting prospect given that she had nearly resigned herself to spinsterhood. Her good fortunes seem to take a turn though when she finds out that he is in fact married. Unlike Rose's Mr. Margadale, Gregson appears to have a reasonable excuse for his seemingly abhorrent behavior- his wife is in an insane asylum and quite unable to participate in their relationship. Furthermore, her mental state renders it impossible for him to get divorced. How credible is his story? For the moment, I choose to believe him. After all, how many failed romances can Julian Fellowes put poor Edith through? Will there be a newspaper man in the Crawley family after all?
On her first trip to London, Edith also ran an errand for her grandmother. In exchange for her support in accepting the position as a journalist, Edith agreed to submit an advertisement to The Lady for a new position for Ethel. It is no secret that the Dowager is displeased with the fact that Isobel has "surrounded [Crawley House] with a miasma of scandal" by hiring Ethel as cook-housekeeper. When she discovers that the rest of the village finds the former prostitute's presence equally disturbing, to the point that she is being refused service, she simply must take action. At first Isobel is irate that Violet and Edith would make these arrangements without her consent (after all, weren't we long overdue for a good old-fashioned Dowager-Cousin Crawley feud?), but with Mrs. Hughes' support behind the plan, she reconsiders. When the responses come in, she shares them with Ethel.
Only one appeals to her, but it comes with a major complication- the house is in Cheadle, far too close to the Bryants and little Charlie for comfort. So naturally, Violet intervenes further in the matter and arranges for Mrs. Bryant to pay a visit. As it turns out, she has felt guilty that Ethel has been cut out of her son's life completely. She urges Ethel to take the position with the plan to tell the boy that she is his former nanny. Ethel knows it may be difficult to maintain this lie, but is sure that nothing will ever be more trying than being separated from her baby. She will be all right, no matter what obstacles she may meet, so long as Charlie is in her life.
Matthew also has business to address while in London, and it does not involve dancing to Smokey Green and The Louisiana Boys. Namely, he is concerned that he and Mary have not yet conceived a child. While in town, he visits a Dr. Ryder. Given his war injury, he is convinced that he is the reason Mary is not pregnant, but the doctor tells him this is unlikely. Unconvinced, he makes his way out of The Office only to run into Mary, who is checking in under the name Levinson. Later at tea, she explains herself to her husband. In fact, it was she who was having infertility problems. After a minor procedure several weeks ago, all is well. Her appointment that day confirmed that she and Matthew should now be able to have children.
With the possibility of a new heir on the way, Matthew is also eager to settle strategies for the
Tom is finding his place in the Crawley family in other ways as well. With Matthew, Mary and Edith's support, the rest of the family finally accepts his decision to christen Sybil into the Catholic faith. Even his unruly brother Kieran finds hospitality (and more importantly, beer) at Downton, when he comes to stay for the christening. At the event, though there remains some uneasiness, the family comes together to support the baby and to honor Sybil's memory.
Tom's most important role in the family is to reconcile Robert and Matthew in their debate over the management of the land. Matthew hopes to make the estate self-sufficient by using Swire's money to buy out a lot of the tenants and to farm the land directly. Robert, on the other hand, fears such drastic alterations and wishes to pursue more moderate change, perhaps investing some of the money instead; always with the keen eye for opportunity, he even proposes doing business with Charles Ponzi. Branson finally makes him see that in order to preserve the future of Downton, they must unite their strengths. Robert eventually agrees to consider Matthew's point of view on the condition that Tom agree to play in the cricket match.
With a few skills learned from Matthew in his arsenal, Branson joins the rest of the house team in the match against the village. While the cricket carries on, some remaining loose ends are tied up. Robert assuages Jimmy's opposition to Thomas being kept on as under butler by promoting him to first footman. But just when all seems to be well on that front, an inspector interrupts the festivities looking for Alfred, who reportEd Thomas after he found out he had been let off the hook. Luckily, Lord Grantham is able to avoid a commotion by pressuring the impressionable footman into confessing that he had merely misinterpreted some roughhousing while he was "squiffy" on cider. Bates also reveals to Anna that the information he used to sway O'Brien was in fact her darkest secret- "Her ladyship's soap". The Bateses may not understand what that means, but we viewers surely understand O'Brien's eagerness to keep it quiet. Rose confronts Rosamund and Edith about who gave her away, only to find out that Violet had tricked her daughter into revealing the story. Branson, seeing baby Sybbie with her godmother Mary, realizes that moving into a separate house may be a mistake. Cora has wanted him to stay all along and is thrilled that he has reconsidered. The mother- and son-in-law agree that Sybil would have wanted it as well. So Branson decides to let the influence of aristocracy into their world and live at Downton while his daughter grows up. Lastly, Robert officially signs on to Matthew and Tom's plan for the future. The three men, united in one cause, are ready to tackle the great unknown together. 7
What will go down at Downton Abbey next week? Will Alfred take a job in the kitchen after losing the position of first footman? How will Thomas behave now that he is so indebted to Mr. Bates? Will Molesley go out for England's national cricket team? Tune in Sunday, February 17 at 9 PM ET/CT on PBS to find out.