New Show Recap: Downton Abbey: Episode 6, Part 1

Hooo boy! Downton, amirite? SO MUCH HAPPENED LAST NIGHT. As I did the last time there was a two-parter, I’m splitting the episode up, because no one wants to read 5000 words on anything, even if it is fantastic British television. Hang on to your exquisite hats, kids, because things are about to get real!

We open in 1919, because time flies in this show, and the last of the military supplies are leaving Downton–no more convalescing at Downton!

Robert is escaping down to the village in anticipation of Sir Richard’s arrival, and Cora asks if Bates is staying, what with his wife dead and all. Robert firmly replies that Mrs. Bates’ committing suicide is no reason to fire his valet. While the formal convalescent home is gone, Matthew is still staying at the house, and Cora thinks it’s time he left. Robert wonders if there’s something he’s not being told about Matthew and Mary, which Cora dismisses.

Outside, Robert’s escaping is interrupted by Jane’s collecting her spilled apples on the path out of the house, which gives us yet another awkward scene between the two of them. Robert’s written to the school her son is applying to, in the hopes that will help him get in. Robert gets a little heavy, talking about all the deaths caused by the war, and Jane needs to excuse herself.

Downstairs, Mrs. Padmore complains about the food shortages, and Thomas doesn’t have any more reason to stay at Downton, yet he’s still here. Thomas confides to O’Brien that he’s going into black market business–he’s got a shack in the village and a dealer to provide supplies. He’ll be rich once word gets out.

As Robert is getting dressed for dinner, he inquires of Bates if there’s anymore news on the death of Mrs. Bates. Bates says it was probably spur-of-the-moment, but Robert points out she’d have to buy “the stuff” which gives Bates pause.

Sir Richard wants to ask a favor of Anna–in his room. Long story short, he’d like her to spy on Lady Mary for him. He’ll pay! Anna, because she is seriously the best character in the entire damn show, gives him a very polite “hell no.” Sir Richard, obviously, asks her not to tell Lady Mary that he’s asked this of her.

Out of a discussion of new post-war clothing styles, Sybil and Violet get into a discussion of whether life ought to go back to the way it was before the war. Violet would like things to go back to exactly the same as they were pre-war, and Robert would like to feel like his life has meaning (don’t we all, Robert?)

Cora has had a letter from Major Mustache’s mother! She and her husband would like to visit, to spend time with those who knew her dead good-for-nothing son.

Sybil, in her very pretty dress, goes to visit Branson after dinner. Sybil feels flat and useless, now that she’s not a nurse, and has almost made up her mind about running away with him.

Mrs. Hughes and Carson have tea, talking about Carson’s impending move to Haxby. Carson says he will always regret leaving Downton, but he thinks he can help Lady Mary, and if he can help her, then he must. Mrs. Hughes still can’t see why Carson loves Lady Mary so much, so Carson tells what is possibly the cutest story ever–at the age of 4 or 5, Little Lady Mary comes in and announces she’s running away, and asks if she can have some of the silver to sell. Carson gives her sixpence instead, and she pays for it with a kiss. Mrs. Hughes thinks Mary got the better bargain, but Carson disagrees. Anna comes in, and needs to tell Mrs. Hughes and Carson something.

Mr. Bates is tucking Matthew in for the night, and Matthew says he’s started to feel a tingling in his legs, and wonders what it might mean. Doc Clarkson says it’s an illusion, but Matthew keeps feeling it. Mr. Bates says to wait and see, and promises to keep the tingling a secret.

Mrs. Hughes goes to visit Ethel, and informs her that Major Mustache’s family is visiting Downton. The plan is as follows: Ethel and Little Charlie are to come to Downton, but wait in the “game larder” (which I’m pretty sure means the meat freezer?) and Mrs. Hughes will try to get–okay fine, Major Mustache’s last name is actually Bryant–anyway, Mrs. Hughes will try to get Mrs. Bryant alone for a second and tell her about her grandson. If Mrs. Bryant asks to see the baby, then and only then will Ethel take Little Charlie in to meet her. It’s a long shot.

Sybil and Edith are finding it odd adjusting back to pre-war life, and Sybil hints that she’s got a plan to escape all this. Edith doesn’t really want to go back to how things were either, but doesn’t know how to escape it.

Thomas takes O’Brien to his shed, which is full of supplies, for which Thomas has paid “a lot.” Nothing’s perishable, he’s all set.

Carson goes to Lady Mary and informs her he will NOT be coming with her to Haxby after all. Mary is hurt, and Carson informs Mary that Sir Richard wanted Anna to spy on her. Mary replies that she’s disappointed, and she always thought Carson was fond of her. (Which, HE IS, you fool! Don’t be hurtful!) Mary informs Sir Richard that Carson won’t be coming with them, then says it’s not a problem, as butlers will be common once they’re back from the war. Mary. Stop being mean. Yes, you’re in a horrible position right now, but stop taking it out on people who clearly love you lots.

And now, for another awkward Robert/Jane scene! Robert’s looking for Carson, Jane mentions that Robert was sad yesterday, and then, in the most disappointing plot twist of the entire damn series, ROBERT KISSES JANE.

ROBERT. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING. Just because you’ve felt useless for the past 6 years, doesn’t justify you kissing your employees. It’s so fucking wrong I can’t even. He immediately apologizes, Jane forgives him quite quickly, and runs away.

Carson tells Robert that he’s staying at Downton, because he couldn’t work for a man he doesn’t respect. Mary is hassling Anna about not telling her first about Sir Richard’s attempted spying/bribery. Which, again, unfair.

Matthew and Lavinia are down early for dinner, and Lavinia goes to clear away a tray that the servants have left behind. She trips, almost falls, AND MATTHEW JUMPS OUT OF HIS CHAIR TO HELP HER. MATTHEW CAN STAND! AND THEREFORE FATHER CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!

Robert calls everyone downstairs, where MATTHEW STANDS THE HELL UP AGAIN! Everyone’s pretty much crying with joy. Dr. Clarkson shows up and explains that, well, he was totally wrong. Matthew’s spine was not bisected, it was instead a case of spinal shock and a bad bruise, which is, as we see, fixable. Let’s everyone stay for dinner!

Anna and Bates steal a moment, and Bates confides that he was the one who bought rat poison, arsenic, months ago when he was living with Mrs. Bates. This could look bad.

At dinner, Matthew announces that his engagement to Lavinia is back on, and oh, could they get married at Downton?

Sybil again goes to visit Branson, and declares that she shall indeed run away with him.  And yes, Branson can kiss her. And it’s adorable. Branson may be pushy as hell and a bit of a prat, (he’s no Matthew Crawley or Mr. Bates) but, well, what do you think of Sybil’s decision?

Cora’s upset that Robert so readily agreed to have Matthew’s wedding at Downton; she’s thinking of Mary first. Robert, who clearly thinks of Matthew as a son at this point, thinks it’s horrible of her to say such things.

Downstairs, Thomas is trying to explain to Mrs. Padmore that he’s got some, um, groceries that he’s willing to sell. Mrs. Padmore makes a deal: she’s making Matthew’s wedding cake early, and then “feeding it with brandy” (note to historical bakers: is this a thing you can do?) So she’ll buy some things from Thomas, and if they work well, then they’re in business.

Oh ho! Mr. and Mrs. Bryant (Major Mustache’s Mommy and Daddy) are here. Mr. Mustache has a mustache too!  And is in QUITE a rush, and a bit of a dick.  Mrs. Hughes goes out to tell Ethel that it’s no good, not going to work, and she’d better leave.

Daisy asks to make the wedding cake, and Mrs. Padmore grudgingly agrees. In the background, Ethel goes running by, carrying Little Charlie. And before either Mrs. Hughes or Anna can stop her, she runs straight into the dining room. Ethel presents Little Charlie, and Mr. Bryant shuts it down, saying that there’s no proof, and there’s no way his son would have a child and not acknowledged it. Mrs. Bryant would like to get closer to the baby, but Mr. Bryant shuts that down too. Mr. Bryant goes on and on about what horrible liars women are, trying to come after his money, and storms out soon afterwards. Mrs. Bryant, who seems like a perfectly nice woman, tries to defend her asshole husband, before leaving at his command.

Downstairs, everyone’s gathered around Ethel, and Anna’s holding the baby as Ethel freaks out a bit. Carson unceremoniously kicks Ethel out. Back upstairs, Sir Richard is being horrible per usual, and says “bastard” which is not a nice word to use around Ladies. Mary then lets loose with, “The truth is, Ethel made her choice and now she’s stuck with it. Aren’t we all stuck with the choices we’ve made?” with a look on her face that clearly has little to do with Ethel.

Mrs. Padmore is reviewing Thomas’ groceries, and will pay him once said groceries have produced a proper cake.

Violet comes in to visit Matthew in his bedroom, and tells him that Mary is still in love with him. Matthew quite admires Violet’s coming to him with this, but points out that Lavinia came back, fully prepared to be his nurse for the rest of her life, and he can’t just throw her over because he can walk again. (I like how “walk” is now a euphemism for “fuck.”)  Let us all note that he has not replied that he doesn’t love Mary. Violet comes back with the fact that Matthew’s going to spend the rest of his life with one of these two women, so he ought to make sure he’s picked the right one.

Sir Richard would like to set a date, and Mary says the end of July. She’s not very excited, and then Mary asks Richard why he tried to bribe Anna. Richard then asks if Mary’s still in love with Matthew. Of course not, she replies, she’d never admit to loving a man who preferred someone else over her. (Let us point out that’s not really a “no.”)

In other problems, Bates has heard from a friend in London, who got a letter from Mrs. Bates, written before the last time Mr. Bates went to see her. In it, she says she’s afraid for her life. Bates is worried it’s starting to look like he killed her, which, well, it is.

Mary goes up to say goodnight to Sybil, who’s sick and missed dinner. The door is locked. Anna goes to get the duplicate key from Mrs. Hughes, and they find Sybil gone, having left a note. She’s eloped!

THANK GOODNESS EDITH CAN DRIVE! She, Mary and Anna are out in the car, chasing down Sybil (and, presumably, Branson.)

Daisy goes to look at her wedding cake, and they decide to cut into the one made for tasting. It’s HORRIBLE. They check on Thomas’ ingredients, and the flour is mostly plaster dust, and the fruit peel is”¦ old? I’m not quit sure WHAT Mrs.Padmore said. The entire cake must be tossed.

In other excitement, Mary, Edith and Anna find Sybil and Branson at The Swan Inn. Adorably, Branson’s sleeping on a chair while Sybil has the bed to herself. Mary tries to reason with Sybil, trying to get her to come back and present the idea to their parents, rather than sneaking away. Sybil doesn’t like being deceitful, so she agrees to go back, but promises Branson that she’ll stay true to him.

The next morning, Robert’s at breakfast all by his lonesome. And then Jane shows up! Oh dear. Jane offers to resign, but Robert won’t hear of it. Marginally admirably, he doesn’t want her to pay the price of his indiscretion.

Thomas, looking exactly like the 1920s gangster he very nearly is, locks himself in his shack and, upon discovering all of his supplies are rotten, throws a fit. Lest we forget, it’s his life savings he’s sunk into this venture.

At Isobel’s house, Isobel comes out with Mary’s good luck doggie, asking Matthew if it’s his, right in front of Lavinia. Isobel offers to donate it, but Matthew quite quickly says no.

O’Brien comes out to Thomas’ shed, and the man’s still a wreck. Every penny he’s got is gone.

Annnd that’s where we’re taking our break, folks. I’ll be back tomorrow with the second half, which, we should all remember, is the thrilling conclusion to the second season! Next week’s episode is the Christmas special, which really, get excited for.

Some things to mull over while you wait for the thrilling second half tomorrow:

  • Now that Sybil’s decided to run away with Branson, do we think any more highly of him?
  • WHAT THE HELL WAS ROBERT THINKING?! We’ll get more into this tomorrow, but, well, thoughts?
  • How do we feel about Thomas? I am torn between thinking he’s really quite horrible and feeling very sorry for him.

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17 thoughts on “New Show Recap: Downton Abbey: Episode 6, Part 1”

  1. Matthew’s instant recovery is kind of driving me insane. Could he really stand so quickly? Wouldn’t he need weeks of whatever physical therapy was like in those days?

    I I love Sybil and her way of sticking to her principals even against her family and/or her lover. But Branson is still annoying.

    1. PBS is hosting the episodes on their own website, at least for the next few weeks (it looks like they expire on 3/6). So if you can make it through two seasons in three weeks, you’re all set…

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/watch/index.html

      I believe that the episodes PBS airs are edited somewhat, so we’re missing out on a few scenes that’ll be available on the dvds, but you’ll be as caught up as the rest of us Americans!

  2. This episode was filled with all sorts of craziness. The Cousin Violet and Matthew scene was amazing. Though it was one of the more subtle scenes (in comparison to the rest of the episode), the one between Anna and smarmy Sir Richard was really well done. The way she was hanging back you could tell she was thinking, “I do NOT want to go into an empty room with that jerk.”

    Re: “feeding the cake with brandy” I think this would be something like an old school fruit cake where one gradually adds booze to it. I think (but don’t quote me on it) that in addition to adding flavor, it makes it last longer, presumably why they are making the wedding cake a little while in advance of the wedding.

      1. I canceled Netflix in a fit of pique last fall over their new pricing structure.

        I was on the 3 DVDs at a time plan and it suddenly basically doubled in price because of the new policy.  I was annoyed enough to say “fuck ’em.”  I only regret that decision at times like this.  I will do some Hulu, Amazon Prime searching.

  3. Once Sybil stopped pussyfooting around the whole will-I-won’t-I with Branson, I thought they were adorable! She’s clearly very happy and he’s much less off-putting when he’s not railing against her family and teh evilz of the establishment.

    I HATE THE ROBERT AND JANE STORYLINE SO MUCH OH MY GOD. Why isn’t she completely freaked out? Why is she mooning around and sneaking into his room and being all “OH LORD GRANTHAM LET’S MAKE OUT” aaaarrrgh and this is so out of character for Grantham :( I understand that he’s experiencing an identity crisis but goddamn dude, don’t make out with the maid who will now inevitably be the one losing out.

    I don’t think I can ever be pro-Thomas.

      1. It’s a little too abrupt when all we ever saw of him so far was how upstanding he was. I’d have liked it better if they’d had a “moment” but he hadn’t crossed that line. Because it’s not the sort of thing he’d do. I can believe he’d be attracted to her but he is so conscious of his position, not the “oops I tripped and fell into bed with her” kind of guy.

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