Look, we all want the Bates to get their baby, but I don’t think we want Julian Fellowes to be the one who gives it to them; pregnancies haven’t gone so well here in the past. Nonetheless, it looks like one more is coming—but that’s not all we have to worry about.
By Matt Gurry
What happened upstairs…
Tom is back at Downton, and everything’s right where it should be for a minute. We jump right into a conversation about how Tom’s arrival doesn’t imply Lady Mary will relinquish her duties as Downton’s agent. (+1 These Changing Times) He also offers some grand ideas of The American Dream he picked up in Boston, bless his heart. It’s May of 1925 this episode, and F. Scott Fitzgerald had just published The Great Gatsby one month before. Too bad Tom didn’t pick up a copy before came back to Blighty.
Other family members are behaving just as we want them to, too. The Dowager Countess enlists the Lady Shackleton, who in the past has been a reliable buttress to Violet’s agendas, to join her in the hospital merger crusade. I started preparing us another roll call, but Lady Mary puts it best: “I won’t bother to explain since every village argument is the same,” and I’m fine leaving it there. Shackleton brings her nephew Henry Talbot, who no doubt will soon be a love interest for Mary. He’s a professional race car driver, which is a downer for Mary, widowed once to a car accident, but it’s a turn-on for the former chauffeur Tom. Which is a turn-on for Matt. (+1 Family)
Our final major business upstairs is with Lord Grantham. For the last few episodes, he’s been walking around the house grimacing and burping. I’d assumed that was just something for Cora to chide him over, but now I think it’s pretty clear the Emperor Fellowes has something in mind for Robert this season. So we all have that to look forward to.
…and what happened downstairs…
The Emperor Fellowes—concerned about tonight’s ratings competition with Fox, who brought back Agents Scully and Mulder tonight—calls in Downton’s resident G-man. Again. Unfortunately for us, that’s Sergeant Willis, and whenever he comes around, someone’s life goes to crap. (-1 Villagers) Tonight, that’s Ms. Baxter. She’s not in trouble herself, really, but is only asked to testify against Mr. Coyle. (Don’t remember that guy? See below.)
Thomas adorably puts on his butler drag tonight, even if it’s only “for the next five minutes, until Mr. Carson gets back,” as Mrs. Patmore reminds him with an eyeroll. While his peacocking still fails to interest Andy, he is humanized a little more this episode when he confides to Baxter that he does indeed care what people think of him.
Joanne Froggatt gets herself one final Emmy nomination—for her work on Downton Abbey, anyway—by demonstrating she can do both panic and elation in one episode. (+1 Staff) Anna is “thickening up,” and thanks to a quick ride to London courtesy Mary and Tom (+1 Family), it looks like a She’s Having a Baby episode is coming up. If there is, I know someone who’ll have some advice!
…and how Julian bulldozed the door between them:
Gwen’s back! It’s one thing for Lady Mary to do Anna a solid. It was a whole other level when Lady Sybil bought her housemaid a typewriter and enrolled her in correspondence classes so she could become a professional. But that’s Lady Sybil for you. (+1 Family)
Their scene plays out rather realistically (I say, as if I have any experience in a manor house), not really Julian on his bulldozer. (-1 Julian Fellowes) Mary thinks Gwen is familiar while the rest of the family is totally clueless they’re entertaining a former staffer at luncheon. (-1 Family) She shares a Sybil memory that made all of us a little misty. I’m not sure if Mary thanking Thomas was a power play or earnest, but either way, he’s the one to thank for tonight’s cry. (+1 Staff) Well, he and Gwen. (+1…um…Staff?)
But as a symbol, Gwen embodies the social mobility that the Emperor Julian loves to subtly clobber us with each week. I mean, tonight we literally see her moving between upstairs and down, from luncheon to kitchen.
As long as we’re on the subject of literal climbs, Daisy goes upstairs, too. I really thought the Emperor Julian was setting us up for a big explosion there, so her fortuitous timing came as a surprise to me. But here we are, with Cora dodging a bullet, Mr. Mason getting Yew Tree Farm, and everything’s comin’ up Daisy. (+1 Staff)
Just Checking: Are These Times of Change?
It wouldn’t be a proper look at how the social mores are changing without Cousin Isobel piping in, now would it? So take it away, Mrs. C.: “It’s marvelous for ordinary women to aim at rich and fulfilling careers.” Then later: “I was a nurse, but why couldn’t I be a doctor?” They’re clunky lines, but this is a clunky theme. (+1 These Changing Times)
Mrs. Patmore scores a couple points here, too, referring to Daisy first as Madame Defarge and later as Karl Marx for her growing distaste of the aristocrats. (+1 These Changing Times)
And finally, after being told by Lady Rosamund that the power of families like the Crawleys is fading, the Dowager Countess voyages to the kitchen only to hear Lady Edith announce she’s hiring a woman to be her co-editor. (+1 These Changing Times)
So yes, I’d say these are changing times. But: our newlyweds will go on as Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, so don’t worry about anyone buying an iWatch next week. (-1 These Changing Times)
None this time, really. We do get a lot of car talk, though. Lady Edith is seen driving, but we’ve already been there. The Carsons might need a car, depending on which cottage they take. Henry Talbot races cars professionally—definitely au courant. And the Dowager Countess tells Lord Grantham she does indeed know her away around a gear stick.
Then there’s Gwen’s speech about how a telephone changed her life. It was a decade ago, but I’ll still take it. (+1 These Changing Times)
Who Was That Guy?
- Mr. Coyle. A former coworker of Mrs. Baxter, he framed her for stealing their Ladyship’s jewels, and she did time. This was Baxter’s Big Secret when she arrived at Downton, but in Lady Grantham’s house we’re forgiven of scandals past, whether they be purloined pearls or (gasp!) acting in the theater! (Sorry, Mr. Carson. That’s what happens when you go on vacation.) Anyway, Coyle’s back and it turns out he has other victims, some having resorted to prostitution after falling in with him. If there isn’t a “Lovely Ladies” number coming our way, this plot will be a waste of time.
- Lady Shackleton (“Prudence”). For our purposes tonight, she’s the Dowager Countess’s friend. Or so she thought. “Are you here to help or irritate?” asks Violet when Prudence doesn’t see the point of resisting change for the sake of resisting change. (In past seasons, Violet has used Prudence to help the causes of both Mr. Moseley and Cousin Isobel.)
- Henry Talbot. Lady Shackleton’s nephew. His entrance gets a famous Lady Mary “golly!™” Plus, he’s single, handsome, and at Downton Abbey, so we can assume we’ll be adding him to Mary’s pile of suitors. As for his pedigree, 40 Talbots would have to drop dead for him to get a peerage. Though “nothing is impossible,” notes the Dowager.
- Gwen! This is a fun one! She was Anna’s confidant way, way back in the simpler times of Season 1, when harboring a typewriter was considered a downstairs scandal. Season 6 is turning out to be a delightful parade of supporting characters, and the more the better, I say. Except for you, Martha Levinson! You’re not invited.
Questions and Comments
- Somebody has to die this season, right? I’m not sure what’s going on with Robert, but it doesn’t look good. Anna’s pregnant now, and Downton’s obstetric record isn’t a good one. And does anyone actually know how old the Dowager Countess is now? I hereby open the bets for this season’s Downton Abbey death pool.
- We have four more episodes plus one Christmas special. This Henry Talbot guy is the only man on Lady Mary’s radar at present. What do we think the over-under on that one is?
- Do the children even live in this house anymore?
- A little off-topic, but one wonders what scene Lady Mary and Anna were filming when the Duchess of Cambridge visited. The diaphragm conversation, one hopes? But Kate Middleton is just like us! She watches Downton Abbey! (+1 Windsors)
Learn to Speak Fellowes
- “[The Dowager Countess wants to bring Lady Shackleton to dinner] only so dear Mama has an ally when we start fighting. … Hey ho, I’ll telephone her when I go down.” —Lady Grantham to Ms. Baxter, who’s a little more concerned with her impending subpoena than Cora’s dinner party
- “[The Dowager Countess] is still in cracking form.” —Tom, at dinner, dreamily
This Week’s Winner
Gwen. I was really happy to see her again. She gave us a chance to gush over Lady Sybil, and she gave me a chance to see Tom Branson’s dimples in response. (+1 Matt) Also, I think it was very helpful for all of us to get the chance to remember that the old days are coming to an end. Lest we forgot. (+1 Staff. I think this is who gets Gwen’s points. Right?)
This Week’s Loser
Sergeant Willis. He weasels his way into yet another plot this week, strutting around as if the Emperor Fellowes has some Downton 5-0 spin-off series planned for him. How vain for him to think he’s the man to sate our appetite for G-men reboots and spinoffs this week, one where we got both The X-Files’ return and an announcement of a new Dick Wolf Chicago legal procedural. (-1 Villagers)
Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. Or the Carsons. Whoever. They go on honeymoon, social order crumbles, Thomas is put in charge, and no one knows what to call them. No one takes any more holidays from here on out, got it?
Season 6 Leaderboard
Villagers: -3 points (-2 from Episode 3). I don’t know if everyone’s been spending all their time drunk at The Grantham Arms, but the Villagers really aren’t doing well.
Matt: 1 point (+1 from Episode 3). Now that Tom’s back, expect to see Matt’s points rise a lot faster.
The Windsors: 2 points (+1 from Episode 3)
Julian Fellowes: 2 points (-1 from Episode 3)
Family: 4 points (+2 from Episode 3). Lady Sybil: earning her family points from beyond the grave: classic Sybil!
Staff: 9 points (+5 from Episode 3). I think this may well be our first 5-point gain in a single episode!
These Changing Times: 12 points (+4 from Episode 3). The paradox here is that if the Staff do take the lead, it’s only because of These Changing Times—kind of an infinity-plus-one situation.
Matt Gurry writes about Downton Abbey with an unhealthy enthusiasm at decantersandbanter.wordpress.com. Join us next week for our next episode recap!
Last modified: July 27, 2017