I’m late to the recapping party this week, and am squeezing this one in just under the wire, since a new episode airs tonight. To the seven people who read these recaps: I apologize for the delay.
Mary Begins the Mating Dance
One thing you can count on about Downton, where there’s an unexpected guest, chances are that this guest will be an eligible bachelor, perfect for Iron Mary. There may only be half a dozen young men of marriageable age left in all of England after the wholesale slaughter of the Great War, yet Mary has managed to find and discard at least three of them. But she’s a lucky one, that girl, so it is no surprise.
It turns out that Mary has already met — and been intrigued by — this particular bachelor back at Lord Sindeby’s shooting party, the one where there were not enough duck blinds to go around. His name is Lord RaceCarNoMoney, and it looks as though he is a real match for Mary. I can only hope he is the Love of her Life #2, as I am feeling much more charitable towards her, since she was, in general, a more decent human being in this episode.
My favorite moment of Mary’s dinner date with Lord RaceCarNoMoney came when he asked her what her “enthusiasms” were, and she delicately dabbed her mouth with her napkin and said, “My work”. Lord RCNM nodded and acknowledged Mary’s fantastic career, before gently prompting her to mention her son. It was almost as if he had expected that Mary would have answered “George, my darling son.” when asked about her enthusiasms, and in fairness, Mary would have, if only she had remembered that she had a son. But she rallied and said that she was working to save the estate for George, who would inherit Downton Abbey not through her, but through her cousin Matthew, to whom the estate was entailed. Matthew also happened to be her late husband and George’s father, and — oh nevermind, the point is it is all very “neat and tidy”, as Mary said, and Downton will be saved, which is great.
Edith Puts One Foot in Front of the Other
I honestly can’t remember what happened with Edith this week, except it wasn’t tragic and she is looking less and less like a beached baby seal and more like the stiff-upper-lip type we all expect British people to be. I do recall she is going to be a lady editor with another lady as co-editor. We’re not sure who that lady will be just yet, and it will be very exciting to find out.
This week Edith’s plot line provides another one of those patented go-nowhere Downton moments when Edith is riding in the car back to Downton with Lady Rosamund and Lady R. mentions that she wants Edith to join the board of a local charitable group charged with aiding Women in Distress. Edith really needs to meet a board member, a young self-made man who Lady R. thinks is just great, and who will be conveniently stopping by Downton for lunch. Lady R. sings his praises and mentions that he is closer to Edith’s age than her own, the twinkle in her eye suggesting that perhaps he would be a suitable mate for Edith. But then he shows up at Downton with a wife, so forget that bit of foreshadowing. Or not.
The promising young feller’s wife happens to be Gwen, the former housemaid of Seasons 1 & 2, who has gone on to Make Something of herself. Isobel, who happens to be at the luncheon as well (since meal times at Downton always provide opportunities for combat and she would hate to miss a fight), quizzes Gwen at great length about her interest in the charity for Women in Distress and her rise from the bowels of Downton to the heights of social activism (or whatever it is Gwen does these days). After her questions are answered to her satisfaction, Isobel nods her head, finally. She approves. On the Good Works and Class Jumping scale, Gwen rates very highly indeed.
Skulking Thomas is Head Butler this episode, a post he occupies while Hughes-Carson are elsewhere, making merry on their honeymoon, and Thomas is eager to tell everyone at lunch about Gwen’s sordid past as housemaid. What follows is a surprisingly lovely scene where Gwen talks of Sybil, and how she had helped Gwen get a job other than house-maiding. Everyone at the table is moved, and for once, the entire scene manages to relay how very much England has changed since the War in an organic, believable way. I love when they talk of Sybil; the memory of her kindness even prompts Mary to be nice to Edith later in the episode. Sybil makes all of us, viewers included, want to be better people.
Sweet Baxter and Skulking Barrow Take a Smoke Break
Downstairs, Thomas heads outside for a smoke and Baxter follows to stare at him with Tremendous Compassion as he puffs. Unlike her predecessor, O’Brien, who used these shared moments to scheme and plot against the family, Baxter uses this moment to make inroads in the Thomas Reformation Project. It looks like she is making progress of some sort, as Thomas now seems to enjoy her meaningful looks and limpid gaze. She just wants to be a friend to you Thomas! Please, for all our sakes, allow that to happen.
Sargent Willis Stops By…Again
It’s been two weeks since the Sarge has come to Downton, and it is high time somebody is being questioned over there. This time, it is Baxter once again, though Sarge tells her it is not about the Bateses. No, that business is finished for good, he reassures all of us, before quizzing her about her relationship to yet another rotten no-good footman, who preys on young housemaids and gets them to do his bidding. Turns out that the only way in the world for this fella to go to jail is if Baxter talks about how me made her do it. But Baxter can’t! She just can’t! And Molesley, taking a break from tutoring Daisy, now insists that Baxter must, using this moment to employ the famous quote about evil prevailing if good Baxters do nothing.
Between bossing Daisy around and advising Baxter on her moral obligation to a Greater Good, Molesley is really feeling his oats these days. Baxter, however, is unmoved by his rhetorical skill, which is fine, as Sargent Willis would prefer to trek several more times to Downton to try to convince her to testify. If Baxter agrees to testify too quickly, Sgt. Willis’ time at Downton will be limited. And then 15 minutes of every show would have to be filled with something other than a visit from the police.
The outcome I am hoping for in all of this is that Sgt. Willis has been making up this stuff about testifying and court cases and unsolved murders and thievery over the last several years just to have an excuse to come to Downton to sit in the Servant’s Hall and get a gander at Mrs. Patmore, a woman he hopes with all his heart to make Mrs. Sargent Patmore-Willis. This way Mrs. Patmore will have the chance to discover “all the mysteries of life” as she put it, just like her old pal Mrs. Hughes. Who is still Mrs. Hughes, to everyone’s tremendous relief.
Which brings us to the scene in which Mrs. Hughes returned with her husband, Mr. Carson, and the couple announced that henceforth they would be known as Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. At this blessed news the room erupted with a display of jubilation not seen since Armistice. “There is a God!” said Lady Rosamund, who until now had been in doubt. The fact that the whole passel of aristocrats would not have to re-learn Mrs. Hughes name and deal with a shared surname among their highest-ranking servants (who ever heard of a Butler and a Housekeeper marrying anyway? It’s unnatural.) was, indeed, evidence of the Almighty’s existence. And we can thank God that Mrs. Hughes remains Mrs. Hughes, especially now that we know he exists.
The Bateseses managed to hang on to their baby, and the male Bates was made aware that all was well in the female Bateses belly. So far anyway. Mary saved the day in this department, which is truly a gift to all of us, cutting short a plot line that might have extended into infinity.
Also, Daisy spared the family a Worker’s Revolt when it turns out that they decided to give the Pigman family’s farm and tenancy to Mr. Mason. Hopefully he is really fond of pigs, and has a way with them. Pigs must be kept properly hydrated at all times. I can only hope Farmer Mason knows this.
Be sure to tune in to the next episode, when Edith steals Gwen’s husband on the pretense that she is the one who is truly a Woman in Distress, Isobel burns down the village hospital in protest, Lord G. finally has that heart attack we’ve been promised, Cora grows even feistier and decides to move into Mr. Pigman’s house herself in hopes of raising another ribbon-winner at the next Fat Stock Show, Granny locks Spratt and Danker in the kitchen together and watches them fight to the death through the keyhole, and Tom finally has courage enough to ask Mary to marry him, just before being run over by Lord RaceCarNoMoney speeding past in his hot rod, an irony on so many levels.