Please note: Since the U.S. premiere of Season 3 was two hours—or two episodes—long on PBS, this episode is known as Episode 5 in the U.S. but Episode 6 in the U.K., where it first aired last fall.
Editor's note: Do not read this recap unless you've seen the episode or are willing to be thoroughly spoiled. If you are spoiled for events beyond this episode, please do NOT post those spoilers in the comments—this recap is the place to discuss what has happened through this episode and no further. Series 3 aired in the U.K. last fall and is airing as Season 3 in the U.S. now.
Need a refresher? Don't miss Naz Keynejad's recaps of the Series 3 premiere, episode 3.02, episode 3.03, episode 3.04, and last week's episode 3.05. And now, onto the recap for Downton Abbey Series 3, episode 6:
After last week’s unbelievably sad episode, I’m ready for something a little uplifting this week.
The episode starts with the aftermath of Sybil’s funeral. Tom is absolutely devastated (the look on his face, you guys!) as Matthew tries to comfort him. Everyone is, of course, completely grief-stricken. Downstairs, Thomas is still pretty upset too, and Anna sticks up for him when Alfred tries to downplay the situation.
Back at the Crawley House, Ethel can relate to Cora’s grief. She tells Isobel that, “when you lose a child, there’s nothing worse under the sun.” Isobel decides to throw a little informal lunch party for Cora and the girls, and Ethel offers to cook something special, which slightly horrifies Isobel.
Meanwhile, Mary’s questioning Anna about Bates, wondering why he hasn’t been released yet, given Mrs. Bartlett’s “evidence.” Apparently, Mr. Murray hasn’t had a chance to talk to Vera’s best friend yet, so nothing’s been done. Mary’s being very supportive, and brings Anna to tears with her show of solidarity.
Robert and Cora are still very much at odds. He wants to move back into their bedroom, and she refuses. She’s maintaining that they should’ve trusted Dr. Clarkson (who knew Sybil’s history), and Robert insists that he was relying on Tapsell’s reputation. Cora accuses him of trusting the “city” doctor because “he’s knighted, and fashionable.” She blames him for letting “all that nonsense” prevent them from saving Sybil’s life.
Robert: “Do you think I miss her any less than you do?”
Cora: “I should think you miss her more, since you blocked the last chance we had to prevent her death.”
Ouch. Well, we knew this was going to create a huge rift between them.
The next day at breakfast, Edith suggests finding a nurse for Sybil’s baby, and Tom informs them that he’s not planning on staying at Downton. He’s going to leave as soon as he finds a job. Edith and Matthew assure him that there is no rush, but Robert jumps in and says that it’s a good idea for Tom to “start making a life for himself.” Okay, seriously? I mean, I don’t mind Lord G.’s being practical, but is the day after Sybil’s funeral the right time to encourage Tom to leave? Edith tries to derail the conversation a bit and brings up the matter of the christening. Tom’s decided to name the baby after her mother, and Robert (again), questions his judgment. He feels that it might be too painful, but Tom disagrees. What in the world is going on with Lord G. this morning? He needs to support Tom right now. To make matters even more complicated, Tom’s insisting on christening the baby as a Catholic. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Lord G. either, but before he can go off on Tom, he’s stopped by a look from Edith and he just leaves the table. Okay, so this is going to be the central conflict in this episode. I hope Tom wins this battle. He wants his daughter to be of the same faith as he is, and I personally think he has every right to make that decision for his child.
Lord G. storms out and confides in Mary, telling her that the “only chance the baby will have to make anything of her life is because of the blood of her mother,” and that “there hasn’t been a Catholic Crawley since the Reformation.” Mary disagrees, and reminds him that baby Sybil is not a Crawley, but a Branson. When Lord G. mentions that he thinks it’s “ghoulish” to name the baby after her mother, Mary gets very upset and basically ends the conversation. Personally, I think Lord G. is channeling his own guilt and anger over Sybil’s death by trying to control this situation.
Next, he goes to see Violet, and she asks him about his plans for the baby. She’s basically concerned that if —or rather, when—Branson takes the baby with him, the family will no longer have any influence on her upbringing.
Violet: “What does Cora say?”
Robert: “Not much. Not much to me, any way.”
Violet: “She still holds you responsible?”
Robert: “She’s wretchedly unhappy, if that’s what you mean.”
Violet: “I will not criticize a mother who is grieving for her daughter.”
Robert: “I think she’s grieving for her marriage as well as for Sybil.”
Violet: “Robert, people like us are never unhappily married.”
Ah. See? I actually love this scene, because it digs deep into the way these nobles have been raised. Unpleasantness is simply swept under the rug and not discussed. Violet basically recommends that Robert and Cora see as little of each other as possible while they’re trying to sort things out. She suggests Cora go to New York to visit “that woman.”
Violet: “My dearest boy, there is no test on earth greater than the one you’ve been put to. I do not speak much of the heart, since it is seldom helpful to do so, but I know well enough the pain when it is broken.”
What a beautiful scene! We rarely get to see how close these two are to each other.
Finally! We have a little bit of levity: Ethel runs into Mrs. Patmore in the village and asks for her help with the lunch menu for Isobel’s party. It’s a really funny exchange between them, and when Ethel points out that the ladies in the family shouldn’t be punished for Isobel’s kindness towards her, Mrs. P. agrees to help. Isobel, who doesn’t know about the arrangement, suggests Ethel just get a ham and make a small salad, you know, keep it simple. But of course, Ethel is determined. I can’t wait to see what happens!
Anyway, Isobel goes over the house to invite “the girls” for lunch, and ends up staying for dinner with Mr. Travis. I guess Robert’s decided to invite him over to see if he can dissuade Tom from christening baby Sybil as a Catholic. Mr. Travis dives right in and claims that there is something “un-English about the Roman Church.” And of course, Tom responds by reminding everyone that he’s Irish, so that doesn’t really bother him. As Mr. Travis continues to insult the Catholics (claiming that God isn’t as pleased with their “pagan” ways of worship as he is with the Anglicans), Edith jumps into the fray and defends Tom, and is quickly joined by Mary, Matthew, and Isobel. Robert intervenes and tries to stop everyone from “ganging up” on “poor Mr. Travis.” Never to be outdone, Mary tells him that it’s only right, since they (meaning Robert and Violet) are ganging up against Tom. Violet interjects and says that she has nothing against this at all, and in fact, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who is “more Catholic than the Pope,” is a “dear friend.” So it seems that Robert is in the minority here.
Robert: “I simply do not think that it would help the baby to be baptized into a different tribe than this one.”
Tom: “She will be baptized into my tribe.”
Robert: “Am I the only one to stand up for Sybil? What about her wishes?”
Mary: “Sybil would be happy for the child to be a Catholic.”
Robert: “How do you make that out?”
Mary: “Because she said so. To me. On the day she died.”
Go Mary! I’m so glad she kept her promise to Sybil and is standing up for her dead sister’s last wishes. The discussion is carried over to the servants’ hall, and of course, everyone has an opinion. Mostly though, they all want to live and let live. There is a bit of an altercation between Alfred and Thomas, but nothing too serious. It’s simply another scene showing how the servants are beginning to question not just their conditions in life, but their belief systems as well. It’s very subtle, and very like Julian Fellowes.
That night, Mary and Matthew discuss the whole issue as well. It’s very contemplative: Matthew’s wondering if Sybil knew she was dying when she spoke about the christening with Mary, and they both agree that after all the deaths during the war, and of course, this latest tragedy in their own family, they shouldn’t take anything for granted.
Matthew: “Which is what I’m trying to get Robert to see. He wasn’t given Downton by God’s decree. We have to work if we want to keep it.”
Mary: “But not only Downton. Us. We must never take us for granted. Who knows what’s coming?”
Matthew: “I have to take one thing for granted: that I will love you, until the last breath leaves my body.”
Mary: “Oh, my darling! Me too! Me too.”
Another sweet scene, and one that we rarely see between these two as well: a quiet moment with just the two of them, not really bound by their social status, but just simply as a couple.
Downstairs, Alfred is still shamelessly flirting with Ivy, and Daisy’s still not very happy about it. And of course, Ivy’s trying to impress James, while he is still being subtly hit on by Thomas. It’s a mess in the kitchen, you guys! Daisy’s made plans to go see Mr. Mason (yay!) and tries to get Alfred to go with her, but he would rather “step out” with Ivy. Oy. Mrs. Patmore is watching this entire thing from the sidelines and keeps trying to keep everyone in check.
Mrs. P. “You know the trouble with you lot? You’re all in love with the wrong people! Now take those [the dinner] upstairs!”
I love Mrs. P.!
Daisy’s visit to William’s dad is a bit more than just a catching-up. Apparently, he wants to make her his heir. He’s basically asking her to leave the big house and join him in running the farm, and eventually, take it over. Daisy’s pretty shocked, but you can see that she’s pleased about it too. She’s just always assumed that she would live her life out in service, but Mr. Mason points out that she easily has another forty years of work ahead of her, and there is no way that the “great houses” would keep going as they were for another forty years.
Violet decides to meet with Dr. Clarkson and figure out if Cora’s right in blaming Robert for Sybil’s death. When Clarkson admits that even if they had operated on Sybil, there would have been a chance that she might have died, Violet tasks him with telling Robert and Cora about this. She wants to make sure they understand that Clarkson’s advice and methods might not have saved Sybil either.
Dr. Clarkson: “So you want me to lie to them and say there was no chance at all?”
Violet: “Lie…is so unmusical a word. I want you to review the evidence honestly and without bias.”
But of course, she really does want Clarkson to lie and say there was really no chance to save Sybil at all, so that the rift between her son and his wife could be mended.
Matthew confides in Tom about the state of affairs at Downton, and discusses his plans for managing the estate better. Turns out that Tom has a bit of a farmer in him: his grandfather is a tenant farmer up in Galway. Tom admits that even though he doesn’t hate it at Downton, it’s really not the place for him, and when Matthew suggests that he leave the baby with the Crawleys if and when he leaves, Tom balks and says that he would never separate from his daughter since she is the only reminder he has of Sybil.
Mr. Carson catches Mrs. Patmore leaving the Crawley House, and of course, he’s not too happy to see her ignoring his orders to stay away from that place. He accuses her of “frolicking with prostitutes,” and Mrs. Hughes comes to her defense. He’s even more incensed when finds out who Isobel is hosting, and walks away fuming that Mrs. P. has “allowed a woman of the streets to wait a table on members of our family!” He goes straight to Lord G., who’s in the middle of his own argument with Matthew about the management of Downton. Ethel’s cooking lessons pay off and the lunch is a great success, prompting Isobel to apologize for underestimating her.
During the luncheon, Edith’s opportunity to write for the London paper comes up, and when Isobel mentions that she’d heard Robert’s objection to it, Cora gets really incensed.
Isobel: “Matthew tells me Robert was against it.”
Cora: “What difference does that make?”
Violet: “Oh really, my dear! Hush!”
Cora: “We’re all family, I’m not letting the side down. I’m just saying that Robert frequently makes decisions based on values that have no relevance any more.”
Mary jumps in and says that she is on Edith’s side, and so is Matthew. Just then, Robert bursts in and demands to know “what else has Matthew decided for my family?” Apparently, he’s there to gather up the women and usher them out of the house, because they had just been served food cooked by Ethel, a woman “who bore a bastard child.” The argument escalates, and when Isobel admits that yes, Ethel had to resort to prostitution to make a living before she hired her, Robert loses it, and tells her that he doesn’t want his family involved in a scandal. Ethel walks in with dessert and Robert tells everyone they’re leaving, when Cora interjects and basically refuses to leave. Everyone backs Cora and Robert leaves, having completely embarrassed himself.
Once the news hits the servants’ hall, Mrs. Hughes confronts Mr. Carson and tells him that since the ladies (including the Dowager) didn’t find anything wrong with visiting the Crawley House, she doesn’t either. Carson’s not happy about this at all, but he can’t force her not to visit, so he grudgingly lets it go. He does say that he’s disappointed in Mrs. Hughes, because he never thought of her as a “woman with no standards.” To make matters worse, Ethel actually stops by the big house with some flowers for Mrs. Patmore, and Mrs. Hughes lets her in, to Carson’s absolute horror!
Mr. Molesley doesn’t understand how the family could’ve remained at Crawley House once they found out about Ethel either. There’s a real funny bit with him and Mrs. Hughes discussing how Jesus ate with Mary Magdalene, and he says that there is no evidence he actually “ate” with her, but he did allow her to wash his feet, to which Mrs. Hughes replies that Ethel has quite a treat coming her way then!
That night after dinner, Mary approaches her father to find out what’s been going on with him, and what exactly the outburst at lunch was about.
Mary: “How did [your performance today] help?”
Robert: “I was angry with Isobel for exposing you all to gossip.”
Mary: “You were angry alright, but not with Isobel or Ethel. I think it’s because the world isn’t going your way. Not any more.”
Robert quickly segues into his conversation with Matthew and wants to know if Mary’s aware of her husband’s plans for Downton. Robert’s pretty upset that Matthew’s questioning his management style, and Mary tries to calm him down. She brings up the christening and tells him that he’s not going to win, and that it was Sybil’s wish for Tom to be happy. She reminds Robert that Sybil loved Tom, and they should all respect that. In a rare moment, Robert shares the depths of his grief with her:
Robert: “I keep forgetting she’s gone. I see things in the paper that would make her laugh. I come inside to tell her that her favorite rose is in bloom, and then suddenly …”
Mary: “Say that to mama. Please!”
Robert: “She doesn’t want to hear it from me.”
Violet summons Cora and Robert to the Dowager House to meet with her and Dr. Clarkson, and to, I assume, clear the air between her son and his wife. Robert immediately reaches out to apologize to Dr. Clarkson, but the doctor interjects, and tells them that after doing a great deal of research, he’s come to the conclusion that his treatment method only offered a very small chance for Sybil. He tells them that toxemia is almost always fatal, and the trauma of undergoing a C-section might’ve just added to her fear and pain, without really offering a chance to save her life. As soon as the doctor leaves, Robert goes over to Cora, takes her in his arms, and they both cry for their daughter. So sad! But, bravo to Violet for saving their marriage.
Back at the jail, the corrupt guard taunts Bates and tells him that his “good fortune” might not actually come to pass. So I guess this means that he and Bates’s former cellmate were able to steal the letters and know what’s going on. They tipped off Mrs. Bartlett, and when Mr. Murray finally meets with her, she denies everything she’d told Anna, thereby taking away Bates’ chances for an acquittal. Trying to figure out what to do next, Bates, Anna, and Mr. Murray meet at the prison, and they realize that for someone like Mrs. Bartlett to “flout” the law, and “lie to a lawyer,” she must’ve either been bribed or threatened. Since they can’t very well bribe her, Mr. Murray suggests that they “persuade” her somehow. Bates assures them that he can figure something out, which worries Anna. She’s afraid that Bates would do something foolish to get himself in even more trouble. The threat works! Mrs. Bartlett signs a statement and Bates is going to be set free. Yay!
Bates ends up cornering his former cellmate and tells him that he better tell his guard buddy to go to Mrs. Bartlett and tell her that she needs to cooperate, and tell the truth, or else Bates will tell the warden about the little drug dealing these two have been doing on the side.
I actually really enjoyed this week’s episode. Even though it didn’t really move any of the story lines forward, it concentrate on all the different relationships, and showed us glimpses of these people as we have never really seen them: the tender moment between Mary and Matthew, the lovely mother-son scene with Violet and Robert, and even the quirky, fun exchange with Mrs. Patmore and Ethel. It reminded me of why I fell in love with the series in the first place.
Next week, Edith gets the job with the paper, Bates comes home, and O’Brien continues to stir up trouble for Thomas. Can’t wait!
Can't get enough Downton? Look for The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis, a behind-the-scenes look at the show available November 13, 2012.
Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She has a “thing” for period dramas and will watch anything as long as it’s filled with suppressed sexual tension, angst and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.