Season 3 finale Part 1
Please note: The Season 3 premiere and last night's Season 3 finale were both two hours—or two episodes—long on PBS, but aired as individual episodes when they originally aired in the UK last fall. So last night's episode was known as Episode 6 on PBS but was episodes 7 and 8 in the UK when these recaps were originally written. Apologies for any confusion.
Editor's note: 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 fall in the U.K. and is airing now as Season 3 in the U.S.
Need a refresher? Don't miss Naz Keynejad's recaps of the Series 3 premiere, episode 3.02, episode 3.03, episode 3.04, episode 3.05, and last week's episode 3.06. And now, onto the recap for Downton Abbey Season 3, episode 7:
This has to be the episode where we get some resolution to a bunch of outstanding plot lines.
It begins with Bates being released from prison, and Anna flying into his arms at the gates. They share a sweet kiss, and drive back to the Abbey. Aww! Finally!
In the servants’ hall, the newcomer, James, is concerned with how to treat Mr. Bates, to the amusement of Mrs. Hughes. Their conversation is interrupted and everyone’s overjoyed as Bates and Anna walk through the door. The only person who seems a bit put out by Bates’s return is Thomas, of course, because this could mean that he will lose his position as Lord G.’s valet.
Robert’s ecstatic about Bates’s return too, and is going to work on getting him a cottage so he can live as man and wife with Anna. Yay! He also promises Bates to figure out the situation with Thomas. They really should’ve thought about this before Bates came home. I mean, what is he going to do now? Maybe he can be a tenant and work the land? Hm.
Edith has received another letter from the editor of the London paper, renewing his offer. Matthew is still supportive of the idea, and Lord G. is still grumbling about it. Edith decides to go up to London and visit with the editor anyway. I’m so glad she’s taking this step towards her independence. She confides in Violet, who sadly agrees with Robert and wants to dissuade Edith from pursuing this. After Edith pleads her case and points out that she’s tired of “being invisible,” Violet relents and says she will talk to Robert about it.
In a rather surprising twist, Violet visits Isobel to encourage her to get rid of Ethel. She claims that her staying at the luncheon against Robert’s wishes was simply in support of Cora, not of Isobel’s decision to hire a “notorious” woman. Of course, Isobel is not happy about this at all.
Violet: “You’ve surrounded this house with a miasma of scandal, and touched all of us by association.”
Isobel: “I think one must fight for one’s beliefs!”
Violet: “And is poor Ethel to be the cudgel by which you fight your foes?”
It turns out that Violet is right, and the people in the village are treating Ethel pretty badly.
Robert and Cora seem to be back to normal again. They’re taking walks and actually discussing their household together. It’s nice to see them like this. Cora suggests Robert let Mr. Carson handle the sticky situation with Thomas and Bates. She also gently admonishes Robert for wanting to push Tom to move out. She reminds him that Tom and baby Sybil are their responsibility, at least until Tom finds a job, and that they owe it to Sybil to take care of her family.
Speaking of Tom, he’s arranged for the Christening to take place at a Catholic church in Rippon, and asks Mary to be baby Sybil’s godmother. Mary’s concerned that her not being a Catholic might be a problem, but Tom assures her that it’s okay, since the baby’s godfather will be his brother. Mary insists that Tom invite his brother to stay with the family at the Abbey whilst in town for the Christening. Tom cautions her that his brother is a “bit of a rough diamond.” Oh goody. Another interesting character coming over to shake things up! Oh, and by the way? The baby is the cutest thing ever!
Meanwhile, Matthew’s arranged a meeting with Mr. Jarvis (the estate manager) to discuss the Abbey’s future management. Robert’s pretty resentful about the whole thing, and he doesn’t hesitate to let Matthew know of his displeasure. The meeting gets a bit contentious. Matthew’s plans seem to be too much for not just Robert, but Mr. Jarvis as well. He doesn’t understand how Matthew is going to improve the estate’s finances by overhauling the entire system. Matthew refuses to back down and insists that “Downton must be self-supporting in order to have a chance of survival.” He accuses Robert of having used Cora’s fortune to bail the estate out throughout the years, and not really making it profitable. The discussion comes to an abrupt end after Matthew’s eruption, and nothing is really resolved.
Downstairs, the love quadrangle (or whatever mess it is at this point) is starting to heat up. Alfred asks Ivy to go to the movies with him and Mrs. Hughes allows it only if they are accompanied by a couple of the other maids. Ivy wants James to go too, but he refuses. Daisy’s pretty upset with Alfred, because it’s pretty obvious that his feelings towards Ivy are completely one-sided. In the meantime, James and Alfred are also engaged in some serious competition for the job of First Footman. Mr. Carson clearly prefers Alfred over James, but we’ll have to see how this all pans out. Of course, Thomas is siding with James and is trying to “teach” him how to win Carson over. O’Brien is not sitting idly by either, and she starts telling Thomas that James has been talking about him a lot, “silly, sloppy stuff,” she says.
Dinner is quite the strained affair; first, Alfred messes up and dumps a bunch of food on Violet’s lap. Then, Matthew upsets Lord G. because he’s asked Mr. Murray to come to Downton and basically back up his new management style. Violet brings up Ethel to Isobel, who proceeds to make a crack about people being “unforgiving.” Cora asks Edith about her plans for London, and Robert jumps in and asks Violet to “talk some sense” and make everyone see why this is such a bad move on Edith’s part.
Lord G.: “Mama, talk to her. Talk to all of them. Say something sensible.”
Isobel: “Yes, let’s hear how a woman’s place is in the home.”
Violet: “I do think a woman’s place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.”
Edith: “Oh, Granny! Thank you!”
Isobel: “Have you changed your pills?”
Violet: “And another thing: I mean, Edith isn’t getting any younger. Perhaps she isn’t cut out for domestic life.”
Uh … can you say awkward? Poor Edith!
The fun doesn’t stop there, because Matthew, trying to change the subject and bring it to a more neutral ground, asks Tom about his plans. Okay, not a very good tactic there, Matthew. Tom mentions that he’s going to go work with his brother, Kieran, at his garage in Liverpool. Yes, this is the same brother who is going to come over for the Christening. Robert’s response to this is to just take a big gulp of his wine. Poor man. The only way to survive all of these family dissensions is to drink!
That night, Matthew confides to Mary that he’s worried about whether or not he is the cause of their not being able to conceive. Mary tries to reassure him, but I have a feeling that she’s hiding something. Remember her visit to London a few weeks back? She said she had been to the doctor? I’m wondering if she’s using some sort of contraception. I can’t imagine she would do something like that because she’s very big on her duty as the heir of Downton, and part of that duty is to bear heirs!
Downstairs, Alfred and Ivy have gone off to the movies, and Thomas gets the chance to find out more about James. Turns out that James has no family left and is quite alone. Thomas is trying real hard to be friendly, without being overtly obvious. O’Brien walks in on them and as soon as James leaves, starts egging Thomas on. She keeps pushing until Thomas finally loses it and tells her that “Jimmy” is not interested in him. Well, it seems that her tactic worked, because Thomas takes a chance and sneaks in to James’s room. Jimmy’s asleep and just as Thomas leans down and kisses him, Alfred walks in on them. James wakes up with a start and is furious. He kicks Thomas out of his room, and all the ruckus wakes up Mr. Carson, but Thomas covers for James and goes back to his room. So now, Alfred is aware of Thomas’s secret. You know, I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Thomas. He’s in danger of losing his job, has lost his accomplice (and sort of a friend) O’Brien, and is basically living in a hostile environment where no one thinks very much of him. Yes, I know, he did this to himself, but still.
The next morning, tensions are high in the servants’ hall. Thomas tries to be nice to Alfred, I guess in an effort to ensure his silence. James flirts with Ivy in front of everyone, which upsets Alfred. Mr. Carson basically lays down the law and tells them that if there is anything going on, they should come right out and say it, but of course, no one says anything. Things are beyond awkward. Even Lord G. picks up on Thomas’ nervousness, but he just assumes it’s because of the job. After dinner, Alfred and James are still acting peculiar while serving in the drawing room, and their behavior is upsetting Mr. Carson.
Alfred confides in O’Brien, and she tells him that he should’ve said something to Mr. Carson right away. Alfred claims that James is not in on it, and explains how upset he was with Thomas. O’Brien, as only she can, plants the seeds of doubt, and tells Alfred that he doesn’t know what might’ve happened (or continued to happen) if he hadn’t walked in on them. She tells Alfred that he simply HAS to tell Carson, because Thomas has “broken all the fundamental laws of god and man,” and he should be reported.
Meanwhile, Edith goes to London and meets with the editor, a Mr. Gregson. He’s a really pleasant fellow, and asks Edith to meet him for lunch the next day while she’s in London. The lunch goes very well. Edith seems to be really at ease with Gregson and even tells him about being jilted at the altar! I think she’s so completely relaxed, and able to be herself, because she’s not trying to attract him. And, she obviously doesn’t see that he’s attracted to her.
Back at the Abbey, Mr. Murray has arrived to meet with Matthew, Lord G. and Mr. Jarvis about the management of the estate. Let me see if I can explain what’s going on (and forgive me if I do a bad job of it, but I’m not exactly clear on all the nuances of running a grand estate!): Matthew’s “talking about investment, increasing productivity, and reducing waste.” Apparently, this involves moving some tenants around, and basically revising the entire farming system on the estate. Mr. Jarvis takes offense to being told that he’s been “wasteful,” and resigns on the spot. Even when Robert asks him to try and help them move things forward, he refuses.
Matthew: “Mr. Jarvis, if I have offended you, then I offer my sincerest apologies.”
Mr. Jarvis: “I’m the old broom, Mr. Crawley. You’re the new. I wish you luck with your sweeping.”
After the meeting, Matthew asks Mary to support him in his decision to make Downton profitable.
Matthew: “You see I know it’s right, Mary. I believe I can make Downton safe for our children … if we ever have any. But I can only do it if you’re with me.”
Mary: “But…what about Papa? I do love him.”
Matthew: “Love him, by all means. But believe in me.”
Kieran Branson shows up and instead of going upstairs to meet the family, he parks himself in the servants’ hall and tells Tom that he doesn’t “fancy” being “up there.” Oy. This is going to be fun. He teases Tom about being “too grand” to eat with the servants. Tom tells him to basically stop being a jerk and come upstairs. Oh, all of this is happening in front of Mary, by the way. Once again, dinner is an awkward affair, especially when the family finds out that Tom would be living in an apartment above the garage in Liverpool. The subject of the Christening comes up again, and apparently, everyone’s going to be going except for Lord G.
Lord G.: “Tom doesn’t want me there, and I wouldn’t know what to do; all that crossing, and bobbing up and down. I went to a Mass once in Rome. It was more like a gymnastics display.”
Tom: “I would like you to be there very much.”
Lord G.: “Why? What difference would it make?”
Tom: “All I know is Sybil would want you there. She loved you with all her heart, and she would want you there.”
Cora: “Will you argue with that?”
Lord G.: “Not if you think it’s so important.”
And the fun continues as soon as Edith announces that they are going to have a “journalist in the family,” to which Violet responds that since they already have a “country solicitor and a car mechanic, it was only a matter of time.” Oh, and here’s a neat little plot twist: apparently, Violet asked that Edith place an ad in The Lady (a popular women’s magazine) for Ethel! Isobel’s not to happy to hear that Violet’s gone behind her back to find employment for Ethel, but Edith comes to her grandmother’s defense and says that it’s probably best for Ethel to be as far away as she can, and go to a place where no one knows about her, or her “profession.” Violet enlists the help of Mrs. Hughes to prove to Isobel that she really has Ethel’s best interests at heart.
Mrs. Hughes: “Mrs. Crawley, I hope you don’t see me as an intolerant person, because I agree with her Ladyship. In a new place, where she can start again, Ethel has far more chance of happiness, than in re-enacting her own version of The Scarlet Letter in Downton.”
Violet: “What is The Scarlet Letter?”
Edith: “A novel. By Nathaniel Hawthorne.”
Violet: “Well, it sounds most unsuitable!”
In the end, as much as Isobel hates having been left out of this plan, she agrees to talk to Ethel.
Violet stays to talk to Robert about keeping Tom as Jarvis’s replacement. She argues that since Tom has farming experience, and clearly gets along well with Matthew, not to mention that he is part of the family, he’d be a logical choice. She also appeals to Robert on behalf of baby Sybil, and points out that surely, he doesn’t want his “only granddaughter to grow up in a garage, with that drunken gorilla (i.e. Kieran)!” Cora jumps in and agrees with Violet, reminding Robert that Sybil never wanted Branson to “go backwards.” Robert agrees on two conditions: one, that Matthew agrees to it (which Cora assures him, he will), and second, that both Cora and Violet admit they were wrong when everything falls apart. Never to be outdone, Violet readily accepts, “because [she’s] never wrong.” So, Robert offers the position to Tom, which he accepts, right after the Christening.
Alfred tells Mr. Carson about what he saw, but he goes against O’Brien’s suspicions and sticks up for James. Carson tells Alfred to keep this to himself and not discuss it with anyone. Carson then confronts Thomas and tells him that what he did was a criminal offense, regardless of whether or not anything had happened. According to Carson, the intent was there, and that’s all that matters. Thomas doesn’t deny anything and admits that he was “drawn” to James, and was under the impression that the feeling was mutual. He admits he was wrong, but also says that when a man is in his position, he has to figure out the “signs” as best as he can, because no one would admit anything outright. Thomas also sticks up for James and assures Carson of his innocence.
And that’s it for this week’s episode. Next week, Carson lets Thomas go without a reference. Some young girl name Rose shows up, and Edith decides to resign her position at the paper.
Continue on to Part 2 of the season finale (known as Episode 8 in the U.K.). The final episode of Season 3 will be the upcoming Christmas special.
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 now.
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.