Season 3 finale Part 2
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, episode 3.06, and last week's episode 3.07. And now, onto the recap for the Downton Abbey Series 3 finale, episode 8:
This was a fun episode, but I don’t feel that it packed enough of a punch for a finale. I know there’s a Christmas special as well, so maybe they’re saving some of it for that episode.
Anyway, we start with Molesley and his dad surveying a field for a cricket match between the household and the village teams. This should be fun! As the team captain for the household staff, Lord G. is determined that his team win, since apparently, they were “thrashed” by the village the year prior. Matthew has vowed to play, if only to avenge the bitter defeat of last year, and Tom is refusing to play, claiming that contrary to what Lord G. might believe, he’s actually never played a game of cricket in his life.
The family’s getting a visitor! Violet’s niece and godchild is sending her daughter Rose to stay with the Dowager, because apparently, the young girl really doesn’t like London. As Isobel points out, it seems a bit odd that a young woman who finds London lacking would prefer spending time with her great aunt in the country, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what sort of mischief young Rose brings with her. Isobel: “I couldn’t manage an 18-year old, not these days. I wouldn’t know what she was talking about!”
Violet: “My husband was a great traveler, so I’ve spent many happy evenings without understanding a word. The thing is to keep smiling, and never look as if you disapprove!”
Meanwhile, Mary’s been to London to visit with her doctor and she has a hush-hush meeting with Cora to discuss it, when Matthew walks in and interrupts them. I have a feeling this has to do with her getting pregnant. I don’t think she’s trying not to, I think there actually might be a problem. I hope not! And, Edith is busy writing her columns for the paper and seems to be very happy with her new occupation.
Matthew’s pretty excited about the cricket game; he feels that it would be a good way to show Robert how the old traditions can remain intact, while the estate is run in a more modern way, more like a business. He asks Mary to help him persuade her father that this is the best way. Just as things start to heat up between them, she tells him that he can’t really go any further than kissing, claiming that the trip to London has made her tired. Okay. There is definitely something wrong with her.
Downstairs, Carson lays down the law for Thomas. Basically, the offer is that Thomas resign “voluntarily” using Bates’s return as an excuse. Poor Thomas (I never thought I’d feel this sorry for him), seems to accept and steps out to dress his Lordship for dinner one last time. O’Brien is still not done with her scheming, however. She encourages James to speak out about how “disgusted” he was by Thomas’ behavior, and cautions that if he doesn’t, then no one will believe that he didn’t want the attention. She tells him that he should threaten to go to the police unless Mr. Carson guarantees Thomas be dismissed with no reference. Wow! I guess hell hath no fury like O’Brien!
Violet takes Rose (who seems a bit flighty) along with her to the Crawley House for a visit, and to deliver responses to the advertisements she placed on behalf of Ethel. Isobel is still pretty upset about the whole thing.
Isobel: “Cousin Violet is trying to find a new job for my cook.”
Rose: “Well, that sounds rather inconvenient.”
Isobel: “Cousin Violet has never let a matter of inconvenience stand in the way of a principle.”
Violet: “As the kettle said to the pot.”
Regardless, Isobel finally has the conversation with Ethel and gives her the responses to the ad. Sadly, Ethel doesn’t find any of the offers to her liking, except one, which is just too close to where the Bryants live, and of course, she doesn’t want to be in too close a proximity with her son, if she can’t really be with him.
Once Violet finds out about this, she doesn’t let it go. She invites Mrs. Bryant to the Dowager house, and asks Isobel and Ethel to visit. Mrs. Bryant assures Ethel that they would have no problems with her living close to Charlie. She tells Isobel that she’ll handle Mr. Bryant when the time comes. And so, Ethel gets a job close to her son and is able to start fresh. Nice ending to her story.
Meanwhile, James takes O’Brien’s advice, and approaches Mr. Carson, who is horrified that James would even consider causing a scandal and contacting the police about the “incident.” James doesn’t back down and tells Carson that he won’t “turn a blind eye to sin,” and is going to proceed with his plans to report Thomas to the authorities, unless Carson agrees to write a bad reference, and basically prevent Thomas from finding a good job in someone else’s house. Thomas is devastated that after ten years of service, he’s going to be turned out without any reference. He wants to tell Lord G. about it, but Carson reminds him that he really can’t, unless he wants to tell the whole story. Oh, poor Thomas!
Mrs. Hughes finds Thomas crying outside in the rain later that evening and convinces him to tell her what’s been going on. Afterwards, she tries to talk Mr. Carson out of sending Thomas out in such a horrible way. She also tells him of her suspicions that James might have (inadvertently) been leading Thomas on. The entire conversation makes Carson very uncomfortable, and he reminds Mrs. Hughes that if they don’t give in to James’s threat, Thomas could end up in jail. I’m sure Mrs. Hughes is going to come up with something to save Thomas.
Over dinner, the family’s trying to figure out ways to “amuse” Rose while she’s staying with the Dowager, and Robert suggests Edith take her to the market in Whitby. Edith, unfortunately, is not available since she’s going up to London to meet with her editor, and Rose immediately jumps at the chance to go with her. Seems the claims of her not liking London have been exaggerated by her mama. She does this whole (pretty thin) song and dance about how she needs to go to London to arrange a surprise for her mother, and asks the family not to give her away. Oh good grief!
Matthew decides to tag along, much to Edith’s relief. She’s worried about being able to handle Rose. They’re all going to stay with Rosamund. What could possibly go wrong, I ask sarcastically? The next day, Mary asks Edith to make sure Matthew doesn’t catch an earlier train back home, but won’t tell her why. Hm. The plot thickens!
Oh how nice! Bates and Anna have been given a cottage. Yay! It’s a bit run-down, but it’s so cute to see them in their own home. Finally, it seems like these two are getting a break. That night, Thomas pays Bates an unexpected visit outside the cottage, and hints at being in trouble without divulging too much. Bates had seen (and maybe overheard?) O’Brien’s earlier conversation with James, and Thomas’ strange comment gets him thinking. He talks it over with Anna and decides to find out what’s happening from Mrs. Hughes.
Mrs. Hughes tells Bates everything, and he shares his suspicions that someone must’ve put James up to this with Mr. Carson. Meanwhile, James continues to make a fuss downstairs about Thomas still being around. The rest of the staff has begun to suspect that something’s not quite right with the situation, but James just keeps telling them to “keep their nose out of it.” Finally, Bates decides to let Lord G. in on the situation, and actually, Robert’s pretty blasé about the whole thing.
Lord G.: “If I shouted blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eaton, I’d have gone hoarse in a month! What a tiresome fellow.”
Bates: “It’s not the boy’s fault, my Lord. He’s being whipped up. Told if he doesn’t see it through, we’d all suspect him of batting for the same team. “
Lord G.: “Who’d do that? Who’s got it in for Barrow?”
Bates: “Miss O’Brien.”
Uh-oh. Now the secret is out and you know Robert’s going to tell Cora about this, who is then going to confront O’Brien, and we get to watch her squirm her way out of it. Who would’ve thought that Bates would go this far to save Thomas? Nicely done.
Over in London, Edith meets with her editor, Michael Gregson, who likes her “mature female voice,” in tackling issues like the soldiers’ plight—issues most women wouldn’t necessarily concern themselves with. This guy is clearly enamored with Edith. I don’t know if she realizes it, but he is totally smitten!
As suspected, Rose is up to no good. She takes advantage of Edith and Matthew’s absence and sneaks off in a cab to meet with her lover. She makes the cab driver wait for a couple of hours while they get…er…reacquainted, and then goes off to some club. The cabbie goes back to Rosamund’s house, ostensibly to return Rose’s scarf, but proceeds to give them all the happenings of the day in great detail. Matthew, Rosamund, and Edith all rush to the club (which Matthew refers to as “the outer circle of Dante’s inferno”), and find Rose, drunk, and making out with “Terence,” a married man, who is clearly having a pretty sordid affair with Rose while his wife is away in the country. Turns out that he also works for Rose’s father, cousin “Shrimpy.” Matthew drags Rose away for a dance and finds out that Rose is being duped with a pretty standard scheme: Terence claims that his wife is horrible, and that he wants to divorce her (but it’s just so complicated, really!) and marry Rose. So, Matthew offers Rose an out if she agrees to leave the club immediately and never see this Terence guy again. Matthew also gets Rosamund and Edith to keep everything to themselves, but promises that if Rose makes one false move, he’ll personally let her mother know everything.
It turns out that Matthew’s reason for wanting to tag along was really to go see the doctor and get checked out. Of course, as fate would have it, the minute he leaves the doctor’s office, he runs into “Mrs. Levinson,” i.e. Mary, who’s there to see the doctor herself. Aha! So this is why she didn’t want Matthew to catch an earlier train back home. She wanted to sneak in and out of London with him none the wiser. Apparently, she’s been seeing the doctor for a while, and actually had an operation (which is why she was avoiding having sex), to fix some sort of problem.
Back home, Violet overhears Edith telling Rose that she needs to stop reading romance novels that make feistiness an admirable quality, so she figures out that something must’ve happened in London. In her own, typically sneaky way, she worms the whole thing out of Rose, by hinting that she’s going to be sent to Scotland with her aunt Agatha after her visit at Downton. Rose breaks down and in a fit, asks who told her mother about Terence. Of course, Violet doesn’t let her get away with it and tells her that regardless of who Terence is, Rose is being sent to Scotland, accompanied by Violet’s maid, and will abide by her mother’s wishes until she’s old enough to be out of their “power.” We find out later that Violet ferreted the details of Rose’s escapade out of Rosamund by telling her that Edith had spilled the beans already! Classic maneuvering by a master schemer! I love sneaky Violet!
Matthew and Tom approach Robert about their management schemes, and Robert goes ballistic. He thinks their methods are too direct and severe, and suggests they invest some capital, and make changes gradually. He even mentions going in with a “chap in America,” a Mr. Charles Ponzi, who can triple any investment money in 90 days! Ha ha ha ha … oh Robert! Tempers run high until Mary, and then Cora step in and basically tell Robert that his old way of doing things isn’t going to work. Robert reluctantly agrees, and decides to “take a backseat” in the management of the estate.
The next morning at breakfast, as soon as Matthew heads out, Tom takes the opportunity to try and get Robert to see reason.
Tom: “Every man or woman who marries into this house, every child born into it, has to put their gifts at the family’s disposal. I’m a hard worker, and I have some knowledge of the land. Matthew knows the law and the nature of business.”
Robert: “Which I do not.”
Tom: “You understand the responsibilities we owe to the people around here. Those who work for the estate and those that don’t. It seems to me, if we could manage to pool all of that, if we each do what we can do, then Downton has a real chance.”
Go Tom! Robert agrees to think about it, on the condition that Tom play in the cricket match! During a break in the game, Matthew asks Robert if he’s given it any thought, and Robert finally agrees to do things Matthew’s way.
In the meantime, suspecting that Mr. Gregson was flirting with her, Edith does the smart thing and decides to check up on him. She finds out that he’s married, and goes up to London to confront him and offer her resignation. But, it turns out that it’s not at all what it looks like. Michael’s wife is in an asylum. Sadly, he can’t get a divorce, so he’s stuck being lonely for the rest of his life. He asks her to reconsider her resignation. Sadly, we don’t see her response to his request!
Downstairs, Bates approaches Thomas and tells him of his suspicions, wondering if there is anything Thomas can use against O’Brien. Thomas is a bit shocked that Bates is on his side in this, but he’s basically given up. Bates, on the other hand, is not so easily dissuaded. He doesn’t like the unfairness of it all and tries to convince Thomas to do something, anything, to at least be able to leave with a good recommendation. When Thomas demurs, Bates tells him that all he has to do is give him “the weapon,” and he’ll “do the work.” We find out later that all Thomas gave Bates was the phrase, “her Ladyship’s soap.”
So, Bates invites O’Brien over to the cottage (over Anna’s slight objection) and tells her to convince James to drop the nonsense about reporting Thomas to the police, and allow Mr. Carson to write Thomas a reference. She declines, and as she gets up, Bates whispers in her ear. Clearly upset and visibly shaken, she leaves after Bates tells her to “sort it out by this evening,” or risk her secret revealed. The plan is a success, and O’Brien manages to get James to change his mind about the reference. Bates tells Lord G. that James has given up his threat, and Robert suggests they keep Thomas on, and find him a job. Okay, this was not what Bates wanted!
When the idea is brought to Mr. Carson, he decides to give Thomas the Under Butler position (which technically makes him Bates’s superior), and in order to avoid any ugliness with James, he suggests that Lord G. be the one to clear everything up. After the cricket match, Lord G. approaches James and thanks him for being generous enough to let Thomas stay on, much to James’s surprise. He then congratulates James on being promoted to First Footman, much to Mr. Carson’s surprise!
But wait!!! It isn’t over yet! Apparently, Alfred, who was upset with James for letting the matter drop, went ahead and called the police! They show up at the cricket match and ask to see Alfred. Robert offers to go get him, and has a long chat with Alfred, telling him he should be kind to Thomas. He tells Alfred that he shouldn’t be quick to judge and ruin a man’s life, based on something that is basically out of Thomas’s control. They tell the police that Alfred was a bit drunk, and misinterpreted rough-housing between two staff members for something else. The police leave, and that’s the end of that.
As a side note, throughout the episode, Tom had been talking about moving into Jarvis’s old house with baby Sybil, and Cora had been gently trying to persuade him to stay with them. At the cricket match, Tom sees Mary holding the baby, and I guess the sense of family overwhelms him, because he goes to Cora and agrees to stay at the big house, at least until Sybil is a bit older.
And that’s really it. Not much of a season finale, and frankly, a few too many neat fixes to some of the storylines. Let’s hope that the Christmas special brings more of a bang, since this episode was a bit of a fizzle.
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.