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.
This week’s episode starts on a pretty somber note: Anna is sad because Bates isn’t writing to her, and Bates looks absolutely miserable because he has no letters from Anna. Not only that, but the prison isn’t allowing Bates to have any visitors, so our favorite couple haven’t seen each other in quite some time. Anna’s worried that Bates “is trying to be gallant,” and letting her “find a new life without him.” Oh, poor Anna! Why can’t these two get a break?
Aha! I knew there was something fishy going on! Bates’s cell mate is getting back at him. He’s in cahoots with one of the guards selling drugs (which is what he had hidden in Bates’ bunk in the last episode, trying to get Bates in trouble), and basically, Bates is now on the Governor’s watch-list as a violent criminal. That’s why they haven’t allowed Anna to see him, and he hasn’t gotten any letters! They’ve basically blocked him from her. Bates is relieved to hear that Anna hasn’t “given up” on him. Of course she hasn’t, Mr. Bates! Your love is stronger than that!
Meanwhile, the family is moving along just like they did before, now that Matthew’s money has saved the Abbey. Matthew’s balking a bit at his new responsibilities as co-owner though, and he seems to have some disagreements with Lord G. on how to run the household. This ought to be interesting! I can totally see them butting heads over things in the future.
The family is hosting the Archbishop of York for dinner, and Carson wants to add to the staff, but Matthew is hesitant. Carson’s confused about who he should answer to, and Matthew reassures him that as always, the master in the house is Lord G., but we can see that it’s not necessarily the case with Matthew questioning the need for a second footman.
Mary’s decided to use the day nursery as a sitting room for her and Matthew, and is busy redecorating. When Matthew asks her what room they would be using for a nursery “should the need arise,” she brushes him off. She doesn’t seem too comfortable with the idea of having a baby. It would be so cute if she did though, don’t you think? Wonder why she’s hesitant. She said something about having gone to the doctor to get medicine for her hay fever, but I bet you anything there’s more going on there.
Edith is “up and about,” and looking for something to do. She has a passionate discussion about women’s right to vote in England, and Matthew suggests she write to the Times about it. Violet tells her that as a “woman with a brain, and reasonable ability,” she needs to “stop whining and find something to do.” I love how Violet just adapts and overcomes, you know? I hope Edith finds something fulfilling, that doesn’t necessarily involve getting married. Times have changed, and she can really do something truly meaningful for herself. She really deserves it.
During the dinner with the Archbishop, Sybil calls from Ireland, and tells Edith that she’s “left the flat,” and “they haven’t tried to stop” her. She’s very vague, and hangs up before Edith has a chance to find out what’s going on. Edith immediately tells Mary and Cora, but they are all called into dinner, and have to keep up the façade of everything being okay. Just as dinner starts, there’s a loud banging and Branson shows up, wet from the rain, panicked, and with just the clothes on his back. This can’t be good!
Branson doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s there, and Mary and Matthew hide him upstairs until after dinner. Apparently, he’s had to run away in a hurry, having made arrangements for Sybil to follow him, which explains her cryptic phone call from earlier. Eep! Mary goes back to the dinner, and with her usual grace, lies and covers for Branson, but manages to let Lord G. know what’s going on.
Lord G.: “Other men have normal families with sons-in-law who farm, or preach, or serve their country in the army.”
Violet: “Maybe they do, but no family is ever what it seems from the outside.”
Okay…the dinner’s over and Branson’s letting the family know what’s happened: apparently, some revolutionaries attacked an old castle, threw out the resident family (I’m not even going to attempt to spell their name), and burnt everything down. (Violet makes a funny quip about how horrid the castle was anyway, and that she doesn’t blame anyone for wanting to burn it down. I love how she can inject a completely inane comment in the middle of a serious situation!) Anyway, somehow Branson has been implicated in the crime, and he’s had to run away. The family’s really upset that Branson left Sybil at home to face the police while he ran away. To make matters worse, Branson was actually at the scene of the crime.
Lord G.: “Why were you [there]? For the fun of seeing private property destroyed?
Branson: “Those places are different for me. I don’t look at them and see charm and gracious living. I see something horrible.”
Violet: “It’s Drumgold (sp?) Castle. I rather agree!” (ha ha ha)
Lord G.: “Mama, you are not helping!”
Branson: “But when I saw them turned out, standing there with their children, all of them in tears, watching their home burn, I was sorry. I admit it. I don’t want their type to govern Ireland, I want a free state, but … I was sorry.”
So, Sybil was supposed to follow Branson immediately, but she missed the last boat, and won’t be arriving until the next day (hopefully). To say that Lord G. is furious is an understatement. He can’t believe that Branson’s abandoned his pregnant wife to save himself. Frankly, I can’t believe it either, but knowing their relationship, how much do you want to bet that Sybil insisted on his leaving first? Anyway, Lord G. summarily dismisses Branson and sends him off to bed, while he tries to figure out what to do.
Downstairs, this is the gossip of the year for the servants, and they’re having a field day with it. Molesley claims that this was bound to happen because Sybil “married beneath her,” and O’Brien wonders what would happen if Branson was sent to prison. Carson puts a stop to it, and sends everyone up to bed, but then he speaks his mind privately with Mrs. Hughes:
Carson: “I knew it would happen. I knew he would bring shame on this house. It sounds as if he’s on the run from the police, and Lady Sybil, for all we know, is languishing in a dungeon, somewhere in Dublin.
Mrs. Hughes: “Let’s wait and see what the morning brings.”
In a bit of levity, Mrs. Hughes has bought herself an electric toaster and wants to test it out, and possibly using for the breakfast service upstairs. This of course, terrifies our resident technophobe, Mr. Carson, who feels that having to give shelter to a fugitive revolutionary is enough of a burden, without having to worry about a toaster!
The next day, a new (and super cute) guy shows up to interview for the position of second footman. James is pretty easy on the eyes, everyone, let me tell you. He turns out to be quite a ladies’ man too, apparently. He claims that his former employer “begged” him to stay with her, but he didn’t want to go live in France, because he didn’t like the food. Carson’s face during this exchange is hilarious! Mary asks Carson about his choice of a footman, and when he tells her that the maids downstairs are keen on Kent, because he’s “handsome,” she encourage him to hire the guy, and cheer everyone up a bit, because, “Alfred’s nice, but he does look like a puppy who’s been rescued from a puddle.” Poor Alfred! Carson agrees, and voila! We have a new hunk as the second footman! Maybe he can be a new love interest for Daisy?
Upstairs, the saga of Branson continues. Lord G. has agreed to help, but he makes it perfectly clear that his help is offered purely for Sybil’s sake, and not Branson’s. He’s going to go up to London and see if he can meet with the Home Secretary and fix things for Tom. No word yet from Sybil.
Back at the jail, Bates is planning his revenge against his cellmate and his accomplice, the guard. He basically sets up the exact same plan that was set against him: hides some contraband in his cellmate’s bunk, the guards find it, and haul the guy away. This is not going to work out well for Bates, I just know it! If his cellmate has it in with one of the guards, he can make life hell for Bates. But, in the meantime, Bates gets a reprieve of sorts, and they give him all of Anna’s letters. And, Anna gets a whole packet of letters from Bates. Yay! At least now they both know that they still love each other.
Later in the day, Sybil shows up at the Abbey. Yay! She has a heartfelt reunion with Branson in the main hall, where he’s been totally beside himself with worry. They share a passionate kiss, and he keeps apologizing to her. So sweet! And see? I was right. It wasn’t just Tom’s idea to “abandon” Sybil to fend for herself. It was a mutual decision. I knew Sybil wouldn’t just be guided by Tom in a plan like this! Cora lays down the law and tells Sybil that she can’t travel anymore until the baby’s born. Sybil doesn’t want to stay because apparently, Tom wants the baby to be born in Dublin. Okay, this is when Mary loses it. She questions Tom’s judgment, and his motives for being at the castle in the first place. As the argument heats up (with Sybil coming to Tom’s defense), they receive a telegram from Lord G., confirming that he’s met with the Home Secretary, and forbidding Sybil and Branson from leaving the Abbey.
When Lord G. gets back, he tells Tom that the best he could do to ensure his safety was to make a deal whereby Tom could never return to Ireland. Basically, the Irish government feels that if Tom returns, he’d be turned into a martyr, and they want to avoid that at all costs. They also don’t want Sybil to turn into the next Lady Gregory (famous Irish author, born into nobility, and supported Irish Nationalism later in life). As you can imagine, Branson’s not too happy about this. Apparently, Tom’s been holding out on disclosing everything that he’s done in Ireland as a revolutionary. He attended “meetings where the attacks on the Anglo-Irish were planned.” Ouch!
So basically, if Branson ever goes back to Ireland, he’ll be arrested. Tom doesn’t like the idea because he wants to be a part of the changes taking place in Ireland, and while he’s grateful to Lord G., he’s not too happy about his predicament. He has an argument with Sybil about it, and insists that he can’t stay at Downton for long. Sybil refuses to endanger their child, and for the moment at least, Branson seems to give in. I’m sure that it’s not going to last, and all of this is going to cause problems down the line.
Meanwhile, Edith apparently took Matthew’s suggestion to write to the Times to heart, which has completely mortified Violet.
Violet: “What do you mean, you wrote to a newspaper? No lady writes to a newspaper!”
Edith: “What about Lady Sarah Wilson? She’s the daughter of a Duke, and she was a war journalist.”
Violet: “But she’s a Churchill. The Churchills are different.”
Mary comes to Edith’s defense, but Cora agrees with Violet, and Lord G. assures Edith that the piece won’t be published. Oh, but he is so wrong! Not only does it get published, the paper lauds it as a great piece of writing by an “Earl’s daughter,” on behalf of the suffragate movement. Matthew’s pretty impressed, but of course, Lord G. is appalled (well, not really, but he acts like he is).
James is introduced to the family at dinner as the new footman (“He looks like a footman from a musical revue,” quips Violet). He doesn’t like being called James, and prefers Jimmy instead. Well, we all know Carson won’t have any of that, thank you very much. And look! Thomas is totally checking Jimmy … er … James … out! And O’Brien catches him at it. Oh, this is going to be good! And, since the hiring freeze is over Mrs. Patmore finally hires a new kitchen maid and promotes Daisy to Assistant Cook. But Daisy doesn’t like Ivy Stewart because … wait a minute! She doesn’t like Ivy because Alfred was flirting with her. What? Daisy has a crush on Alfred? Huh.
Meanwhile, Matthew has been immersing himself in learning the business of running Downton, and has apparently run across some challenges. He tries to bring it up with Lord G., but the conversation really doesn’t get anywhere. Mary won’t even hear of it, so Matthew goes to Violet for some advice. Basically, he feels that “Downton is being mismanaged,” and he wants to know how to approach it with Lord G. Violet basically tells him that he needs to do what he needs to do, but that there will most certainly be some resistance.
The minor storyline about Ethel is no longer so minor. Isobel has visited her and brought back a letter for Mrs. Hughes. In it, Ethel’s asked to meet with Mrs. Hughes, so she arranges a meeting at the Crawley house with herself and Mrs. Crawley. Basically, what it boils down to is this: Ethel wants to give up Charlie to the Bryants. Even though she originally declined their offer to raise Charlie, now that she’s been forced to go into prostitution to provide for herself, she feels that her son would be better off with his grandparents.
So, a meeting with the Bryants is arranged, and they all get together at the Crawley House again. Mr. Bryant is his old charming self, putting Ethel down for her “chosen” profession, and being generally mean and condescending. Apparently, he’s had Ethel followed this entire time, so he knows all about her life. Nevertheless, they want to offer Ethel some money. You see, Isobel’s trying hard to help Ethel reform herself and not have to give up Charlie, so she didn’t let Mrs. Hughes tell the Bryants the real reason for the meeting. The Bryants basically have no idea what Ethel’s been planning. They think they are there just to see their grandson. Isobel tries to convince Ethel to take the money, but she won’t budge. So she turns down the money and gives Charlie up. Their goodbye scene is so sad. Sniff.
Let’s revisit the electric toaster for a second, because really, this episode was just so fraught with heavy-duty stuff, I think we need some laughter. Carson’s downstairs working when he sees smoke coming out of Mrs. Hughes room. He rushes in with a bucket, only to find that she hadn’t set the dial on the toaster properly, and had burned some bread.
Carson: “I was worried that Mr. Branson might take it into his head to burn the house down, but I didn’t think that you would.”
Mrs. Hughes: “No? You should never take anything for granted, Mr. Carson.”
That was it! Pretty plot heavy episode. Next week, we find out that Edith has been offered a position to write for a newspaper, Isobel offers Ethel a job at the Crawley House (to Carson’s chagrin), and Thomas is making the moves on Jimmy, which Jimmy doesn’t seem to appreciate. 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.