Downton Abbey: Burning Down the House

Posted on January 21, 2013

This was kind of an odd episode, in retrospect. It had all the feeling of a table-setting episode; one where various characters and plot points are arranged just so, in order to pay off storylines later on. And those types of episodes are usually difficult to assess because it’s all so vaguely presented. But looking over our notes and our twitter feed from last night, it turns out that quite a lot happened, right under our noses, without our realizing it.

Part of what made this episode somewhat appealing to us was the “life on the estate” feel of it. There were no major, earth-shattering revelations; just a series of smaller ones that played off the characters and gave you some sense of where the rest of this season is going. Of these, the ongoing O’Brien/Barrows war holds the most promise to be absolutely delicious. Now that they have a footman with visible abs, O’Brien has all the ammunition she needs to destroy her former partner in crime. Thomas, bless him, never did have the sense to keep his desires a little more on the down-low. The look on his face when he walks into the kitchen and sees Jimmy for the first time is priceless, but also painfully transparent, and O’Brien will know exactly what to do with his recklessness. Be afraid, Thomas. Be very afraid.

But the preceding is a perfect example of what we’re talking about with this episode: a relatively quiet development, the hiring of a new, good-looking footman, is turned into something with seriously sinister undertones and the potential for explosive plot developments simply because we know these characters well. This is Downton Abbey at its best, we think.

Similarly, the show came dangerously close to admitting something it’s clearly loath to do, even though the evidence is overwhelming: Robert, Earl of Grantham, is something of an enormous buffoon. His eager promise to make Matthew co-lord of the estate is clearly something he didn’t mean all that much. And given the stupidity with which he handled the estate’s money, you’d think he’d be just a little more open to the ideas of the man who single-handedly saved it and is set to inherit it next. But no, Robert stands as a mild rebuke by Julian Fellowes of the ways in which the aristocracy can be problematic: an almost pathological resistance to change and an obnoxious assuredness that everything aristocrats do is the right thing to do and always has been. His father ran out of money running the estate, now he has run out of money running the estate, but by god, not one thing will be changed about how the estate is run. He won’t even listen to Matthew, cutting him off every time he brings it up.

In other news, Mary is having the nursery redecorated to be a sitting room. Uh-oh.

Edith, for her part, seems to be turning into someone who doesn’t want to sit at breakfast like a lady and would rather get out there and tell the world what she thinks of it. Her family, because they’re all kinda jerks, basically wave away all her thoughts and ambitions. This is to be expected, given who they are and when they are, but even so, it’s appalling how badly the family treats her. It seems Matthew is the only one who considers her a full person with her own desires.

But of course the big news among the sisters is the fact that the youngest one married a terrorist. Tom has turned out to be a nightmare of a son-in-law for Robert. Obviously, history will show that the Irish had very good reason to want to fight the English, but Tom was extraordinarily naive thinking he could have a foot in both worlds, the working class revolutionaries and the aristocratic family he married into. Worse, it’s to the aristocrats that he turns to for refuge and help once things almost literally blow up in his face. And it was an enormously cowardly move to flee a country and leave a pregnant wife behind to fend for herself. Yes, there were reasons given as to why he did so, but for once, the family’s anger toward him was justified.

Downstairs, Anna hasn’t heard from BateZZZZZZZ for a while. This is actually a plot point; one that comes close to dominating the episode. We have yet to hear from one person who cares about this Bates storyline and most people seem to be in the same boat we are: not having a clue what’s going on with him. There’s … some sort of trouble with his cell mate? And little bits of burlap found in mattresses… that’s a bad thing? Whatever. This storyline can’t end soon enough. For god’s sake, Matthew went from crippled to walking to burying his fiance to marrying Mary in less screen time than it takes Bates to sigh in a saintly manner.

Also: Daisy takes the day off from berating Earth-2 Daisy and returns to the Shire, to be among the other hobbits.

And finally, Isobel pushed her way into someone’s life, full of self-righteousness, but ultimately balked at the idea of letting her make her own decisions for herself, doing everything she could to impose her middle class values on Ethel, who simply can’t afford them. It was Mrs. Hughes who stood up and said “I know what world we live in, Ethel, and I know this is the best choice for your child.” Fellowes alternates between elevating and rebuking the upper and lower classes on this show, but his disdain for the middle class is relatively consistent throughout. Isobel is always presented as a person with conviction, but somewhat naive in her understanding of how the world works.

But a decent episode, we think. Put it this way: we’re wondering what happens next with everyone and we don’t think we rolled our eyes once or said “Oh, come ON,” while watching the episode. That’s gotta count for something.

Prediction for next week: Mrs. Hughes accidentally burns down Downton with her electric toaster, but everyone assumes it’s Tom’s fault.

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  • SRQkitten

    Loved watching DA while reading your tweets last night. Can they please end the BAteZZZ storyline now?


  • momjamin

    Knew you folks would read the same thing as I did into O’Brien’s notice of Thomas’ notice of Jimmy — hadn’t seen any speculation on that line on the other blogs I scanned this morning. There certainly are some messy forebodings in the downstairs love lives!

    My husband goes to sleep when I go watch “America’s Project Chef Runway Downton Top Whatever” (as he puts it) but asked me about last night’s ep anyway. I finally figured out how to explain the pacing issues by noting, “Sybil’s been 5 months pregnant for two weddings, two trips between Ireland and England, and a couple dozen undelivered letters between the Bateses.” Seriously — how much time has elapsed since the first phone call that she was preggers?

    • miagain

      very good point!

    • America’s Project Chef Runway Downton Top Whatever is a show I would watch the shit out of.  As long as it wasn’t all team challenges.

      • momjamin

         Seriously watch out for O’Brien with the chef’s knife/fabric shears 😉

        • formerlyAnon

          She’s ABSOLUTELY capable of cutting and plotting (and chain smoking) all at the same time! No crying necessary.

        • Lynn Landry

          Those turn-of-the-century servants could sew like hell!

    • Spicytomato1

      “Sybil’s been 5 months pregnant for two weddings, two trips between Ireland and England, and a couple dozen undelivered letters between the Bateses.” 
      Yes, she’s still barely showing. And in that time Ethel’s child grew from a jumbo-sized infant to a 2 or 3 year old boy!

      • Celandine1

        The jumbo sized baby gave me the heebie jeebies! Was glad little toddler Charlie was normal sized!

        • Spicytomato1

          Haha, I know. He was almost petite in comparison.

      • We found out that Sybil was pregnant at Christmas and it’s now mid-June. As for Ethel’s boy, I can’t remember the last time he was seen before this last season. Was it the Christmas episode or was it las summer. He did grow a lot, but he looks about 2 years old to me which would make him about right.


    • I noticed that too! Surely she would be pretty far advanced in her pregnancy by now??

    • Celandine1

       Apparently the other blogs didn’t watch next weeks previews for next which made it fairly obvious that O’Brien is going to stir that pot.

      • Lilithcat

        Or they may not have wanted to introduce spoilers to people who deliberately don’t watch the previews.

    • I miss O’Brien’s old bangs. Is that wrong?


    • sdejoode

      That’s one of the things I pay attention to in this show.  Mary was nearly a spinster in season one.  And then 8 years pass before she gets married.  It’s like there is dual time going on.  One timeline for the characters and another timeline for the background.

      • 3hares

        That explains why Sir Anthony suddenly became far too old for Edith in season 3 when he was a good match in season 1. (Though not why anyone in this time period would consider an age difference an issue.)

    • ChaquitaPhilly

      Right-o! We wondered the same thing. Sybil’s not a very big girl and she’s barely showing. How close together WERE those weddings, anyway?

      • Two months, if I am remembering correctly.  Edith said she could pull off a wedding in a month one month after Mary’s.  But there really should be more baby happening since I can’t imagine Edith is that ok with being jilted just a few days later.  I mean, would the family host a dinner so soon afterwards?  You’d think they’d wait at least another month.  Oh the laffy taffy of soap opera time trajectories…

      • momjamin

         Not close enough for Granny America to stick around for the second.

  • miagain

    I’m with you on the Anna, Bates storyline… I loved them, and now, please let it come to an end!  I thought it was just me that didn’t know what they were looking for in the mattress…

    •  Ditto that… I was embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what was going on with Bates and the mattress and the burlap whatever… glad to know I’m not the only one.

      •  they mentioned something a “dealer” on the outside, so I’m assuming it’s drugs.

      • Fay Dearing

        It was some sort of contraband, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what. I mean, most drugs in this era were completely legal (for example, coke wasn’t made illegal in the UK until the 1970s) and you wouldn’t be able to shove a knife into a wall like that so I just have no freaking clue.

        • I think they smoke burlap. But forget about that: what were they seeing? Those were some seriously ugly ass comforters. Or pillows. Or maybe they were getting ready for the prison wide sack race.


          • Fay Dearing

            OH! Finally got it. The burlap is made of of hemp fibers. They’re smoking a form of pot…Which according to Google was made illegal in the UK in 1928. Glad that finally makes sense.

          • Actually I was just kidding about smoking the burlap but maybe that’s what it is.


          • Topaz

            I’m pretty sure Downton time is at about 1920-21, barring the occasional bit of dialogue from 1986, so that doesn’t explain it.

            Maybe the sack racers had been accused of blood doping, and now they’re trying to palm the blame off on poor, innocent Bates.

        • Lily-Rygh

           Maybe this is just because I live in a city with a lot of hippies, but both times now I’ve thought it was a wrapped bunch of sage!

        • Lilithcat

          (for example, coke wasn’t made illegal in the UK until the 1970s)

          Not so.  The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920 banned cocaine in the UK.  It had already been illegal to sell it to members of the armed services.

          Heck, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote an entire book about the illegal drug trade, Murder Must Advertise, one of her best!

      • SapphoPoet

        Me, too.

      • Meredith_P

        It might be in the editing from the original to the PBS version.  I’m very confused (and don’t really care?).  It will all probably become clear when my Season 3 DVD arrives. 🙂

      • SVLynn

        me too, I visited TLo just now thinking, they’ll explain it to me, and lo and behold, I’m not the only one who isn’t following it. The guards held the mail because he made them look stupid hiding the package the first time, implicating Bates? Maybe it was for the cellmate, and now this time, he let it happen, so they like him? I thought the first package was to frame Bates? TV does this too often, they take a story line that was once popular and good, and instead of wrapping it up, they try to milk it, til know one cares. Find the real murderer and let him free already. Take a lesson from The Good Wife and the whole Kalinda debacle!

  • The one thought I kept having last night was about certain bitter kittens who flounce into the comments for these posts and proclaim that they never watch any more since it’s been revealed to be soooo soapy!  Of course it’s soapy! It’s about a house and the people who are living their lives.  There are awesome historical, social, and cultural commentaries going around the characters.  But for pity sake, they are all just living their lives.

    And, speaking of that toaster, ever since The Women of Brewster Place, I automatically cringe when I see an electrical appliance introduced into a 1920s household.  The musical score might as well start playing darkly because we all know that SOMEONE IS GOING TO DIE DUE TO MISHANDLING ELECTRICITY!

    • Agreed. Soapy isn’t the right word. It’s poorly written. I don’t think that they’ve established Tom as this much of a fanatical jerk prior to this season, but I know that Matthew has changed drastically this season with his own trip to the jerkstore last week. I know that Erica Kane wouldn’t abruptly accuse someone she loved of defrauding a dead person for no reason. They would have at least come up with a split personality or brainwashing or something.

      • fursa_saida

        Funny, I thought Matthew’s trip to the jerkstore was for regular idiot maintenance. He seemed exactly as pigheaded and unreasonable as he was during the “BUT I DON’T DESERVE TO BE HAPPY” phase of Why I Can’t Just Marry Mary Already, or: I Am A Moaning Sack of Tortured Eyebrows: A Memoir, aka all of fucking season two.

        •  Your mileage may vary, but I think that his refusal to use the money is in line with his season 2 jerkery, but “I think you’ve committed forgery, Mary!” is a whole new level

          • fursa_saida

            Fair point. I’d mostly forgotten that. I was so delighted when she threatened to beat him about the head.; it was all I wanted to do.

        • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

          I Am A Moaning Sack of Tortured Eyebrows: A Memoir – can I use that title for my autobiography? 

          • fursa_saida

            I was thinking of using it for a chapter of my memoirs, but I say we both use it and then start a PR war to boost both our sales. Deal?

      • Hmmm… Now you have me thinking… I wonder if there is a way to get Erika Kane on this show.  Maybe she could open her shoe closet door and inadvertently find a portal leading to Downton Abbey.  She and Matthew could scheme together on the proper running of the manor and its many assets.  Then, once everything is running fine, and after being acquitted for accidentally pushing the new kitchen maid off a cliff, she could help Thomas come out of the closet.  The possibilities are endless!

        • Qitkat


        • Lily-Rygh

           Maybe Thomas and Erica’s daughter could be each other’s beard until things settle down a bit…

      • Sadly over the last 6 years of All My Children, Erica Kane (And the rest of them) were extremely poorly written.  There is no comparison to Downton.

    • I sure hope not. I liked the toaster scene for Carson’s reaction.

  • BateZZZZZZZ is the perfect name for this insanely righteous character.  They keep toying with hidden furies on his part, but to reveal them would (perish the thought) make him far more vulnerable and human.  And Anna is getting more than a trifle annoying playing her one and only card, that of long suffering woman, who holds her head high.

    • For the love of god, give her something, anything, to do.

      • fursa_saida

        Seriously. I miss first season Anna. She radiated calm and competence in an immensely appealing way. 

        • Are there to be no more dead lovers to be carried from one room to the next?

          • Topaz

            Sigh. She carried dead lovers like no other. Now she just mothers and suffers.

          • fursa_saida

            Whither the cadaverous escapades?

          • There is a petition to make that a new Olympic event.


          • formerlyAnon

             I am pretty certain this will be my favorite comment of the entire day.

    • librarygrrl64

      And she seems to get a LOT of time off for a servant, no?

      • Spicytomato1

        They all seem to get ample time off and pretty much come and go as they please. Which is not how I understood the “downstairs” servants to be treated. I had read that they maybe get a half day off per week, if they’re lucky. And that someone in Daisy’s position, especially would be so bone weary from slaving 18 hours a day.

        • In addition to lots of time off, I’m noticing a lot of bending of the space/time continuum this season.  Mrs. Crawley goes to “Downton Place” for a picnic, has time to meddle below stairs, and still has time to go home, change, and come back for dinner (an episode ago).  Daisy has time (in a short-handed kitchen!) to go to the Shire to get her father-in-law’s blessing on getting her freak on with the footman, even though it was a big deal for Sweet Duckface William to go back when his mother was dying.

    • Topaz

      They keep having lingering shots of him looking sad or wounded and I keep hoping they’re staying on his face for such an interminable time because a sudden flash of malice or pure evil is going to creep on there when we least expect it and then suddenly vanish again. But then the saccharine music kicks in and I realise they’re just trying to remind us of how much he loves Anna and puppies and emptily self-sacrificing gestures. Again.

  • While I find the Bates story distracting from the rest of the show, here’s what I think is going on in a nutshell. 

    For whatever reason, Bates’ cellmate and the evil guard have it in for him.  The only real reason I can come up with is that they think he feels like he’s better than them because he’s innocent.  They planted drugs or something (the burlap) in his bunk and tipped off the guards.  Someone warned him though so he turned the tables on them.  Also, evil guard had been keeping his and Anna’s letters.

    • Meredith_P

      I was thinking that I nodded off during parts of *all* the prison scenes, because I’ve been so confused.

  • A word about costume here.  The designer has been doing a masterful job of slowly morphing Edith’s character, as she gains more pluck and independence from the repeated hard locks life, and her often betch slap worthy family.  As she had grown more into herself she has become more visibly assured in her manner of dress. Its become more cohesive, polished and chic.  The way she is going, she’ll go off and make a name for herself elsewhere, before the season is done.  (just a guess on my part)

    • I had sort of noticed that, particularly the dress she was wearing at breakfast when her Papa reads the letter.  It was fetching (even sitting down) and she looked particularly lovely in it.  But thank you for pointing it out.  I do think you’re right.  She even got the better wedding dress!

      • BayTampaBay

        Read somewhere on the internet that Mary’s dress was specifically designed for the show and cost around $6,000.000 USD to create and fabricate. 

        • Well THAT was a waste of money.  They could have done about the same thing with a few sheets and a day (maybe two) of a Project Runway designer’s time.

        • downtonfan_ma

           I have the DVD set of Season 3 (no spoilers) but there are bonus features on there specifically about Mary’s and Edith’s weddings. They discuss the dresses and the head costume designer talks about the clothes she designs for both characters. You can also see Mary’s wedding dress in more detail than was shown in the episode and it does have intricate beading.

        • Oops!

    • This is my prediction as well — and I was only half-facetious last week when I suggested she run off to Italy to paint.  I can see her character deciding, fuck all this nonsense, I’m going to live my own life.

      • I’ve been hoping she ups and takes herself to America, for some Fitzgeraldy good times and bequeathing her Good Name on a Young Fellow with Money. A reverse of what her mother did, which would give them something FINALLY in common. It’s not like Grandma couldn’t make some fabulous introductions for her.

    • librarygrrl64

      Agreed. She has had some of the best, most flattering costumes this season. Which I am happy to see. And I noticed in episode one that she was already trying for a more modern hair style (looks like it is officially bobbed now?) while Mary still hangs on to the same style that Cora has. Very telling. The costume and makeup/hair departments do an excellent job on this show.

      • siriuslover

        Once you said bob, I was reminded of Fitzgerald’s “Bernice bobs her Hair.”  Remember that story? And it was written roughly the same time as this was taking place. Thanks for helping with the context!

      • RroseSelavy

        I also noticed Mary and Cora wearing very similar headpieces.

  • Rebecca Damsen

    So, when Bates returns to Downton Abbey, will he continue to eat hunched over with his fist around his fork?  Is he just trying to fit in?  Where’s his cane?

    • siriuslover

      I totally couldn’t get over that scene.  I started watching every single prisoner and they were all holding their spoons the same way. Maybe it helps them eat faster because they don’t get enough time to eat.

      • LesYeuxHiboux

        You may have something there, I knew my husband before he joined the Marine Corps and when he came back his style of eating had changed completely. He had begun to hunch over his plate and shovel food into his mouth with a utensil clutched in his fist, because they never knew how long they would get to eat (and it was often less than five minutes). 

      • Meredith_P

        It’s actually a “thing”.  You have to “guard” your food in prison.  Can’t remember where I saw that reference, but some TV show or movie.  They identified an ex-con by the way they ate.

    • SapphoPoet

      Maybe he can’t have his cane because it could be used as a weapon?

  • mariavii

    I have been thinking the place is going to burn down since the oven started smoking and then stopped working.  

  • siriuslover

    bahahaha! The electric toaster. That was a wonderful moment with poor Carson not able to move forward into the twentieth century.
    I can almost (almost) feel sorry for Thomas, but only because I’ve always found O’Brien just as bad as he. We had a sense of why he is the way he is (conniving and manipulative) when he was hoarding the food (that turned out to be bad) and when he had that emerging relationship with the officer who killed himself. 1. He’s always been different in the world and knows that people will judge him harshly, and 2. he was a working-class kid who had to fight himself even into the servant’s position he had at Downton. He wants to be independent, but can never get there. And I think we saw that reach an interesting moment in his exchange with Carson last night. When he said that he was jealous of the attentions Carson paid to the newish fellow (who’s bo-oring), Carson says flatly, “I don’t see why you should…he asked, you never did.”  That self-sufficiency is now biting him back. Yes, almost sorry.

    I do like the Bates / Anna storyline. I don’t know why, I suppose I like the actors a bit. I liked the prison politics a bit.

    I hope that Edith makes a literary name for herself and tells the family to “piss off.” 

    • Bo-oring indeed! I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  Thomas (in his way) is much more attractive, not to mention Ireland’s most handsome terrorist.

      Maybe Edith will go off to Paris or Capri and find herself!

      • AudreysMom

         Maybe Matthew and Edith will discover that they, not Matthew and Mary were meant for each other.

      • BayTampaBay

        “Thomas (in his way) is much more attractive, not to mention Ireland’s most handsome terrorist.”

        Is Thomas Irish????  Is he a terrorist?????

        •  Oops! Bad sentence construction!  Here is that thought better expressed:

          Thomas (in his way) is much more attractive, as is Tom, Ireland’s most handsome “terrorist.”

          Hope that clears things up…

        • RroseSelavy

          Is anyone else irritated that there is both a “Tom” and a “Thomas”? Seriously?

    • Girl_With_a_Pearl

      Yay for Edith!  You show that snobby family of yours.

    • Qitkat

      I feel as you do about Bates and Anna. Just as we have learned what it was like for a young woman like Ethel in dire circumstances with a child, we have learned what prison was really like for men of the time. So dreary in the scene where they were marching in a little circle in the yard, and how they had to sneak even talking to one another as it wasn’t allowed. I would think the part about the letters was true to life, and actually happened, as Fellowes has used factual stories before.

  • CPK1

    BateZZZZZZZ . Awesomely funny!

  • janierainie

    I’m so sick of the Bates storyline that the only thing that will redeem it for me is if he turns out to have really murdered his wife and Anna finds out and ruins his plot to prove his innocence. I’m starting to want Anna to go to prison too. Oh, okay not really! 

    The storyline for Ethel was so heartbreaking.I have a grandson her son’s age and I couldn’t stand watching the scene when she gave her little boy away.Isobel is such an airhead.

  • Judy_J

    I love your prediction for next week s episode. And I can’t wait to see what happens next in the O’Brien-Thomas war. The new footman is just too delicious for Thomas to ignore.

    • I love the idea of footmen-lovers.

    • momjamin

       Even Violet noticed: “He looks like a footman in a musical revue.”

      • librarygrrl64

        That was my favorite line.

  • Anyone else think the new footman could be Simon Baker’s little brother?  Cute!  I don’t know about anyone else but when Bates pinned his cellmate against the wall I kinda thought it might be possible he DID off his wifey.  Wouldn’t THAT complicate matters?

    • That’s who he looks like!  You are very correct in the Simon Baker comparison.

      • BayTampaBay

        Who is Simon Baker?

        • The Mentalist.  Also the bad boy who tried to steal Anne Hathaway from her boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada

          • Jackie4g

            AND – the luscious ne’er do well gigolo in “The Affair of the Necklace” with Hilary Swank and Adrian Body. Rent that if you have not seen it. It’s before Adrian’s Oscar fame and he’s pretty good as an aristocratic sleaze.

          • Aha!  I knew he looked familiarish.  

            Speaking of the Devil Wears Prada, I’ve had a terrible bout of the flu and all I can think of is Emily telling Andy “I’m only one stomach virus away from my goal weight.”  It makes me laugh a little, especially on day four when I can finally nibble a few solids without wanting to vomit.

    • Yes, I thought immediately he could be a Simon Baker relation – turns out he does have three younger half-brothers although none seem to act.

    • raininmai

       Yes, I noticed the Simon Baker resemblance as well. And with Bates, that scene made me consider that he could certainly be violent when he needed to be, and he might just have murdered the wife.

    • SapphoPoet

      Yes! That’s who I was trying to think of. Simon Baker. Thanks for posting.

    • SVLynn

      yes, immediately thought they could be related!

    • Yes! I was racking my brain trying to think of who James reminded me of! The Mentalist, of course! Their faces are very similar. Does S. Baker have a younger sibling?

  • BayTampaBay

    The “Bates-in-Prison” story line has got to go and has got to go now.

    What does Fellowes dragged out “this prison” show plot line and rush everything else?

    • formerlyAnon

      I’m starting to hope that there will actually be a genuine surprise twist about who/what is involved behind Bates’ trial, wife’s death, and some tie-in to The Family somehow.

      Because if there isn’t, I don’t really get what’s up with that. For a while I thought the Anna-Bates relationship was supposed to shine as the servant-class example of unselfish love that the upper classes don’t seem to achieve. (Suitable to the soap opera feel of DA.)  But I’m not getting that vibe any more,

    • grif wolf

      I had this feeling last season that Thomas might have framed Bates for murder and that is what O’Brien has on him.

  • PaulaBerman

    If you had told me in Season 1 that I would be rooting for Ethel the most of any of the characters on the show, I would have said you were nuts… but here I am. Ethel is turning out to be the least obnoxious, most forward thinking, and most likeable characters this season. I used to love the Bates/Anna story, but now it is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry, nodded off there for a second. The rest of the family is a bunch of prigs with no sense, and Branson is an ass who doesn’t really love Sybil as much as he loves what she symbolizes for him. I have never liked him and now like him even less.

    The best moment of the ep for me was when Thomas was standing in the doorway talking to the shirtless Jimmy, then walked away. O’Brien then walked past the same doorway, looked in, and you could see the wheels turning in her mind. She didn’t say a word, but her stance and facial expression said volumes. Indeed, that is the plot line I am most interested in, along with watching I Don’t Give a Damn About Anything Ethel busting out all over.

    • Tally Ho

      I had the same reaction when I saw O’Brien watch Jimmy. Uh-oh. Glad the evil one is back but very sorry for Thomas (and even Jimmy/James) for what is to happen.

      I only wonder what brought O’Brien to the men’s quarters in the first place. If you remember from the first season the servants’ quarters were gender segregated and female servants were never allowed in the men’s quarters. 

      • PaulaBerman

        Was that the men’s quarters? I thought Jimmy might have been changing somewhere other than his room, but I could be wrong. I don’t feel a bit sorry for Thomas. He is a snake, maybe a sociopath. O’Brien has, on occasion, shown some concern for others, in her weird, dark way, but Thomas seems remorselessly manipulative and narcissistic. I do feel bad for Jimmy, who has no idea what craziness he has stumbled into. Should be awesome to watch.

        • I think that there is a room off the kitchen (near Carson’s office) where they keep all the extra uniforms.  I assumed Jimmy was there trying on his.

        • girliecue

          Not completely sold on young Jimmy. I think he’s got a manipulative and devious side too. Maybe he and Thomas SHOULD get together. Thomas would be awesome with an apprentice snake!

          • fursa_saida

            I just know there are so many snake jokes I should be making about the two of them, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what they are. 

          • reapwhatyousew

            I don’t see Thomas and Jimmy ever getting together. Are both manipulative? Sure. But they each have their own style. While Thomas uses deceit and treachery to attain his objectives, I see Jimmy using his manly charms to manipulate the women of DA into serving (no pun intended) his purposes. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this, but I detected hints that Jimmy/James served his former employer in ways that went WAAY beyond his domestic duties. “She always called me Jimmy.” “She begged me to come with her to France.” Hmmm.

          • Celandine1

             I got the feeling that young Jimmy was providing ‘extra’ services to the lady/ladies of the house at  his former place of employment. Wonder on the real reason he didn’t go to France.

        • fursa_saida

          On the other hand, only one of them has intentionally caused the person they’re meant to be most loyal to to have a potentially fatal accident and lose a baby.

          • PaulaBerman

            That is true… it was her great, shining moment of evil. She is not a good or great person by any means, and I would not want to have tea with her. However, I have found myself having moments of sympathy for her, whereas with Thomas, there’s nothing for me to grab onto. He’s just a snake. When they were friends and collaborators, it was awesome, but as enemies, there’s a lot of potential for drama.

    • Branson completely f’ed up but he does truly love Sybil.  He broke down in sobs when he was alone, if he didn’t care, why the tears?  Also, the way he grabbed her and kissed her when she showed up spoke volumes about his feelings.

      • PaulaBerman

        He cares about her but I think he is very self-absorbed. From the beginning I thought he was just in love with the idea of claiming a nobleman’s daughter, like it was some sort of political statement. His crappy treatment of her reinforces this idea for me, that he puts his causes above human relationships. People like that can love others, but they will always disappoint them, possibly abandon them. I can imagine Branson going back to Ireland despite the near certainty of incarceration, leaving Sybil and the baby at Downton. In fact, that’s my prediction for the story line.

        • formerlyAnon

          With you on the most likely Branson plot.  

          If this WERE an open-ended soap opera, I’d say he’s eventually killed in Ireland, leaving Sybil home for her Mama and Grandmama to try to marry off respectably, despite her baby-with-dubious-parentage. Sybil allies with the most forward-thinking of her sisters, and the plot can take that move into the progressive London bohemia/drug-addled playground of the Bright Young Things (choose one or both) which we all keep trying to predict for one or more of the sisters.

        • This is the bad part about being impatient and having already watched the season.  My response to you basically boils down to “Well, SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.”  😉

          • formerlyAnon

            You are SO GOOD to the rest of us for restraining yourself! Thanks.

          • PaulaBerman

            Was a spoiler deleted? I am unspoiled, so probably my speculations are totally off base. In any case, I’ve never liked Branson, but maybe he will show himself to be an awesome guy after all. We’ll see.

        • momjamin

           As long as they get Bates out of jail before they put Branson in.

      • librarygrrl64

        I think he cares but, like all zealots, he is ultimately a bit single-minded in pursuit of his goal. The Irish experienced a lot, so I certainly understand his feelings, but still. You are a husband and soon to be a father, and that now has to be a consideration. At least he actually witnessed a consequence of what violence does to a family.

        • Lilithcat

          Ever seen Alain Resnais’ film La Guerre est Finie?  One of the characters says, “Love has no place in the life of a revolutionary”.

          • librarygrrl64

            No, I haven’t seen it, but now I want to! And I agree with the sentiment. 🙂

          • fursa_saida

            That’s brilliant. The revolutionaries that are obsessed with love (for example, the Bohemians, certain parts of hippie culture) are rarely real revolutionaries so much as they’re wide-eyed party people.

          •  Yes, Lilithcat! You may be the only person I’ve encountered who has referenced “La Guerre est Finie”.  It was one of my faves in the early 70’s. Yves Montand, lots of cigarettes, intrigue, politics, love, French, Spanish, all my preoccupations back then. And I loved the soundtrack music too.

        • 3hares

          But he’s so lame even in pursuit of his goal! If he was a zealot he’d be burning down the house. Instead he’s on board, then gets freaked out, then runs to the British aristocracy of all people to protect him and his wife. And he spent the first couple of seasons ranting about the situation in Ireland from the garage of an English country estate. That’s why at least so far he doesn’t come across to me like a zealot so much as a teenager who’s really into the cause but from a safe distance.

    • Ethel or Edith?  Because I’m with you on Edith.  I want her to do something amazing and show them all how life is lived.

      • PaulaBerman

        Edith. My bad. Will fix.

    • formerlyAnon

      “Branson is an ass who doesn’t really love Sybil as much as he loves what she symbolizes”
      Yes. And I’ve always felt it worked the same way for Sybil in her feelings about Branson. And the hormones of healthy young people cemented it into feeling like a real relationship.

    • librarygrrl64

      That scene was full of win. 🙂

  • I, for one, shall enjoy this new Footman vs Valet storyline. And then there’s Michael’s blue blood blueballs — in the nursery and managing the estate. Makes him miss Lavinia, yes?

    • PaulaBerman

      I wonder if Matthew has now had time to regret marrying into that family: like father, like daughter.

      • BayTampaBay

        Of course not.  He is truly …cough…cough…in love with Mary…The Uppity Minx! 

  • Jessica Goldstein

    Couldn’t they have made Sybil and Branson get separated while fleeing? And did Branson HAVE to attend those meetings and hide if from Sybil. They are making him hard to like, which I think is Fellowes point. Ditto Isobel, who was spouting pious adjurations about a mother’s love in a world in which clearly it was not enough. Ethel knew what she was doing and why, and so did Mrs. Hughes. Mrs. Hughes was the one who really helped in this case. I love her.

    My fear, I have to say, is that we’re going to find out that Matthew just doesn’t understand why Grantham runs Downton the way he does. Otherwise, Fellowes really is writing Grantham as an incompetent, something that to date would be very out of character. 

    • I think part of Robert’s problem is that he’s never had to live in the real world and has no idea about managing money.  For him, it’s always been there until it wasn’t.  Matthew, on the other hand, lived a very normal life and probably has a better idea about such things.

      • siriuslover

        Well, once he compared Matthew to his accountant down in London, I pretty much figured that it’s only a matter of time before the world will know what a buffoon the Earl is. Both see his bad investments and poor financial accounting, but he also refuses to listen to either.

        • Since Matthew never expected to be Lord G., he grew up thinking that he always had to work. He was aware of profit and loss. For Robert, money appears at the end of the rainbow, in the pot of gold.

        • Anna Bergman

           Since Matthew is the heir I don’t understand the big deal about them co-managing the estate.  Robert wanted him to be involved in the estate, that’s why they were all so shocked about his job.    “A JOB???”

          •  Exactly. The whole first season was to bring him up to speed on the estate.

    • formerlyAnon

      Since I never found Branson likable, this surprises me not the least. 

      But then, I come to it with a jaundiced eye towards the personal relationships of people who are sincerely proponents of any cause or ideal as the organizing principle of their lives.

    • Branson is a manly man. He doesn’t have to tell the little woman what he does in his spare time. 

      Do you think that B & S were living off the Downton allowance? I don’t see Branson having time to go to an office and be a journalist.

      • BayTampaBay

        NO!  There was a line when B&S were in bed where she suggested they buy ” a suit of tails” because “we have some money”.  Brandon promptly says something like…”not spending any of THAT money”.

      • RroseSelavy

        He sure does run for the comfort of Downton every chance he gets. 

  • Tally Ho

    Yes…. in a way this episode was closer to the first season in that it was “a day in the life of an estate and its inhabitants” rather than the ridiculous plottings of the second season or the earlier episodes of this season. Nothing earth shattering happened and was resolved in mere minutes, thank god. On the other hand there was a distinctly depressing note throughout the episode – prisons, prostitutes, abandoned babies, pregnant mothers on the run, houses burning down – but all happening outside the seemingly impregnable and safe walls of Downton Abbey. Still, despite the topics it was overall a fairly quiet, even tempered episode only marked by the odd inconsistencies. 

    Probably the most ridiculous acting was during the dinner party for the Archbishop of York when Mary leapt from her chair right in the middle of the dinner to go and greet Branson at the door. That wasn’t good behavior or manners yet no one seemed to bat an eye and a sensible Branson would have first discreetly gone to the kitchen doors if he was on the run. That whole scene just felt contrived and badly rushed – high schoolers acting out a play written by a naive freshman. 

    Otherwise, in terms of character developments:

    Branson….yeah….yeah…you married the daughter of an earl and now you’re going to secret meetings with the Sein Fein (?) plotting to burn down houses of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. I really, really, and I mean reaaaaalllllyyyy loved your attitude towards the whole thing. “Yeah I was at the meetings and I saw Drumgoole Castle burn down but it really wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t really that involved and I was sorry afterwards blah blah.” I now had sympathy for the thousands of teachers and principals who have to listen to angel-faced, squirming little middle school brats try to lie their way out of a situation on a daily basis. You could see through every bold-faced lie and every bit of stupidity to conclude that Branson just isn’t a bright or likeable guy. 

    The Right Honourable the Earl of Grantham is an anti-catholic bigot. Ahh….I can’t claim to be entirely surprised as the archtypical English aristocrat of the time was probably predisposed towards anti-catholicism as a combination of history, tradition and perception that most Catholics were the Irish immigrants, although they wouldn’t have acted on their feelings towards the very Catholic continental aristocracy or the old English Catholic families. But, but, but it’s still interesting to see Robert morph from a pleasant, rather progressive and even, gasp, liberal earl of Season 1, the kind of person who’s happy to hire Irish revolutionaries as chauffeurs and who cares greatly for his staff’s health and welfare that he gives them the best medical care one can buy, into a rather unpleasant, buffoonish and even stupid person without even the comic relief that Wodehouse would have provided. I very much liked Robert in Season 1. I kinda liked him in Season 2 and even felt a bit sorry for him. But so far in Season 3? He loses his wife’s entire fortune on a single stock scheme. He breaks up a potential marriage for his daughter to a n eminently suitable man, he’s clearly inept at managing Downton Abbey and the estate, and he’s now a bigot? No, I don’t like him. 

    By the way, some of you may not know that Fellowes is Catholic and he has Irish ancestry as well, so keep that in mind before you start making comments about Fellowes not liking catholics or the Irish. Fellowes has his agenda but none of us has a clue as to what it may be nor the reason for all his script writing and plot development decisions. 

    Perhaps the most telling, even realistic, moment of the episode was when Ethel confronted Mrs. Crawley after giving up the baby, pointing out that Matthew had gone to a famous (boarding) school and university (either Oxford or Cambridge) and that he’d had all the advantages of that background and education. In other words patronizing, upper middle class Mrs. Crawley can’t ever really understand the plight faced by the truly destitute or pretend that she isn’t, in her own way, just as advantageously placed as the aristocratic Crawleys. Even Mrs. Hughes implied the same if with a great deal more tact. Nicely done, Fellowes. 

    Last comment: still no great zingers from the dowager Countess. Your line about the burning of Drumgoole Castle fell very flat. No matter how ugly it may have been it was still someone’s home and ancestral seat, and you of all people should have recognized that. For the most snobby person on the show you are oddly also the most tolerant of Branson and his activities.  

    • librarygrrl64

      I agree COMPLETELY on the Grantham turnaround. It’s like he’s a different person. My beloved Hugh Bonneville deserves better.

      • Anna Bergman

         I know!  He was so lovable in Season 1, his scene with Carson’s old dance hall buddy was priceless.  

    • Anna Bergman

       Isobel showed the worst part of having so sense of reality.  She supposedly wanted to help girls make new lives for themselves then tried to talk Ethel out of a decision that she had plenty of time to make.   Mrs. Hughes in her smart, subtle Mrs. Hughes way did not let her get away with that crap.   Isobel is a complete hypocrite by bullying Mrs. Bird–she only likes the truely downtrodden to make herself feel important.   

    • Anna Bergman

       I thought the Dowager’s “Oh so we needn’t be afraid to sleep in our beds” was pretty good.    Branson banging on the front door was crazy and so was Mary getting up.   She’d probably never answered a door in her life.  Talk about taking on an aristocratic attitude! he could have gone throught the kitchen.  Then Carson would have whispered to Mary and the exact same scummy Branson revealed.    He took Sybil to Ireland then left her there alone. 

  • SewingSiren

    I think Julian Fellows hates the Irish more than the average English man. Tom was always pretty waffely but to desert is pregnant wife in a foreign country that is revolting against her very kind. Shouldn’t he have sent her off home and stayed to fight the fight, regardless of the price, himself? Wouldn’t he have? I think so. Why would he suddenly be so eager to return to Ireland now that he “can’t”. 
    I also thought Isabel advising the ex-maid/current prostitute to keep her baby was rather false and foolish. I those days there was no  rising above your station. None what so ever. The baby would not had a chance in the world if it had stayed with its mother. None.
    I’ve always liked Edith.

    • formerlyAnon

      Isobel has never seemed more out-of-touch than in this episode.

      •  Her heart was in the right place, though, even if she didn’t understand the stakes.

        • formerlyAnon

           Yes, but her behavior makes her look stupid, and she’s never been portrayed as an actual idiot. She’s upper  middle class or a bit better, has taken an interest in the welfare of the down trodden and hobnobs with the aristocracy.  She should KNOW that unless she can create and fund a job for Ethel, personally, there is no way that Ethel can support herself and her son and even with a job – who will care for her son?

          There is no sustainable place for a woman in Ethel’s situation without family to take her in at any level of society. Isobel’s entire experience of life should have shown her this, and she’s looked at more levels of society more closely than most women of her age and class.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It felt more like ‘the old Downton’, not the cheesy soaped-up version its been lately.

    But I still can’t figure out what on earth was hidden first, in Bates’ bed, then in his cell mate’s. He and Anna reading the letters was touching. OK, I’m easy.

    If Isobel wants to help Ethel so much why doesn’t she just give her some kind of job? Anything. Maybe I’m naive. 

    Was Thomas licking his chops over, or feeling threatened by the new footman? Maybe a little of both.

    Sybil’s hair was tragic.

    Go Edith!

    • Yes, the person who does Sybil’s hair is the one who should get thumbscrews and the rack.


    • Anna Bergman

       I never understand the Bates contraband plot and was relieved to see that no one else did either

    • RroseSelavy

      It’s an old TV tradition that pregnant women have terrible hair, but it makes no sense. Real pregnant women have spectacular hair (at least in the age of prenatal vitamins).

    •  Brendan Coyle said it was opium on his Twitter account

  • formerlyAnon

    I just know they’re going to make me feel sympathy for Thomas again. I would have said (um, did say this past week) that that would be impossible. But whatever happens next is going to feel just so UNFAIR to my 21st century viewpoint.

    Mrs. Hughe’s new toaster was possibly my favorite “character” this episode.

  • Stubenville

    Violet to Edith: “Do stop whining and think of something to do.”  Truest words uttered on the show last night.

    • formerlyAnon

      Though it pissed me off a bit that Grandmama “I wish to reject all these horrid new ways” and “NO, it is wrong for the man you love to marry you” was the one to say it.  You just know that when Edith DOES do something, Violet is going to be against it. And quick to exert her full powers of manipulation to frustrate Edith yet again.

      • PaulaBerman

        I know the Dowager Countess gets all the pithy lines, but I have not liked her much this season. Her meddling in the Edith/Strallan marriage was well nigh unforgivable. We will see how the family handles new, shirty Edith. The smile on her face when she heard that her letter was published was priceless.

        •  I wonder if that wasn’t the point, though? The Dowager Countess seemed mainly to think Edith ought not to throw her life away on Strallan — what if she’s been subtly prodding Edith to get off her tush and show some of the initiative she took during the war? Mary might be the favorite, but Edith is becoming more like her grandmother each episode.

          • PaulaBerman

            If that was her intention, to save Edith from a boring life keeping house for an older man, I can sort of see it. It was still extremely meddlesome, especially since I really think Edith and Strallan loved each other and could have made each other happy. However, isn’t Violet always the one who is going on about tradition and things being too modern? So it would be surprising if she embraced Edith’s women’s rights activities. But maybe. 

          • formerlyAnon

             Does Edith have any money of her own, or just an allowance from her parents (father)? Because unless she has her own income, she’d have at least as much freedom to live the life she chooses as the wife of a well-to-do husband whom she loves and who loves her, as she would as the dependent daughter-at-home.

            With a decent income of her own, she would be more independent single. If she chose to be.

          • 3hares

            Isn’t that weirdly anachronistic? Why would an old-fashioned woman in 1920 tell her granddaughter to not waste her life by marrying another aristocrat with a good fortune and instead get off her tush and find a career? Edith basically was taking initiative in bagging Strallan. After that she’s not supposed to get off her tush–that’s the goal!

  • I don’t understand why nobody understands what the guards find in the cell. Didn’t the preceding episode have Surprisingly But Suspiciously Helpful Inmate tell Bates flat out that his cellmate was running a drug smuggling ring with help from the guards? And that he should be careful because they were going to plant some in his bed? Not being snarky, just wondering if I imagined that scene to fill in a plothole.

    • Girl_With_a_Pearl

      I never heard that drugs was what “the thing” is.  Maybe in the U.K. verision?  

    • fursa_saida

      I heard nothing about drugs, just that the cellmate had “planted something.” Honestly, when he first pulled it out of the mattress last week I thought for a minute it was a chicken bone.

    • KGW

       I heard the drug thing too. 

    • RroseSelavy

      I can never understand that British-accented whispering and have to read between a lot of lines in these prison scenes.

  • Carla_Charlton

    The only time I said “Oh, come ON” was at the end, when the episode closed with those silent scenes of Bates and Anna reading their letters — what a letdown.

    • I said, “Oh, come ON” every time Mary and Matthew had a scene. Terrible writing for their characters thus far this season. 

      • Carla_Charlton

        You’re right — I had already forgotten about the inexplicable and gratuitous conflict that seems to be brewing between Matthew and Mary.  Can’t the writers come up with something else for them?

  • andreawey

    anybody else notice how much more modern and insightful granny has become this season……. I’m rooting for Edith to find herself and I really think that the  Bates/Anna story is completely unconvincing……there was never any chemistry between those two, in fact it seemed kind of creepy at times, they seemed to try to sell the story as a poor spinster maid finally finds some nice older guy to take care of her (kinda like Edith) it just doesn’t fly for either of them……. they’re to young, cute and smart.

  • andreawey

    Oh, and Thomas vs. O’Brien….awesome:)

  • Inspector_Gidget

    Downton Abbey must be revenge for decades of British stereotypes on American TV.  Kind of amusing how all the Americans are cut from the same boorish cloth, and plainly state it out loud. (“I’m American!  We think history and tradition are stupid!”   “I’m American! Let’s go make out in the linen closet!”)  I enjoy it, though.  JF is winning one for Cockney chimney sweeps and uptight aristocrats everywhere. 

  • JulieTy

    I soooooooo wish Lady Edith would go visit her NYC grandma, become a wild jazz baby and go back to England with feisty nouveau riche American men following her home to shake things up at Downton.

  • I introduced my daughter to Downton this season. She loves it, but as the ZZZZBateZZZZ thing was showing, she turned to me and said, “I don’t understand or care. I just want to see the goings on at the house.” She doesn’t even have the sort-of kind-of palatable back story of Bates and Anna, so the prison thing is def ZZZZZZ to her as a newbie. And of course she’s right. We just don’t care anymore! Get out or deal with what’s happening in there but we don’t want to hear about it!

    No Shirley McClain this time, boo.  I keep waiting for her to poke her head back in and say, “Just kidding! Now here I come, REALLY!!!”

    I think they are doing a great job os showing all of the various social stratifications, even in the servant’s quarters.

    •  AND, I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson romance. That definitely is something coming down the pipe.

  • CeeQ

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Your re-caps always make me LOL =) 

    Will Robert EVER get to read the morning papers without reading something that will potentially RUIN & DISGRACE him and thus take up the rest of the day/week/month to iron out? He’s got a country estate to run badly, for heaven’s sake! 

    Best line of the night: “Edith, you’re a woman with a brain and some reasonable ability. Stop whining and FIND something to do!”

    Will Sybil find the gumption that compelled her to wear PANTS to dinner that one time (!!) and tell Branson she’s had ENOUGH of the Revolutionary life?? It was HOT when she was trying to annoy her parents but now it’s a total pain. 

    Branson dear – make a decision. Dashing fearless Revolutionary, braving all to stay by his beloved’s side? Or whiny upstart who runs to Lord Robert & Downton while leaving said (PREGGERS) beloved behind when the poo hits the fan? Robert should have put him in a headlock. But clearly one can’t do that in dinner whites.

    Will O’Brian do the unthinkable and OUT Thomas, causing more pursing of lips and clutching of pearls?? (Of course she will). 

    Let’s spare a thought for poor Carson. He can deal with The Great War, being short a footman for most of the season, Irish revolutionaries running in and out of the place, mostly wearing the wrong suit, a society wedding being cancelled at short notice, one of his staff in jail accused of murder, and another two of his staff at daggers drawn AND his head House-keeper potentially being terminally ill. But he WILL NOT put up with that *toaster* monstrosity. It is not to be borne. Times may change, ladies & gentlemen, but standards must remain!

    Clearly Matthew and Mary have stopped having honeymoon sex cuz she’s getting down right MOODY with him! Will they resolve their differences and whip Downton into shape together?? Discreetly of course so as not to *upset* anyone – which is the only cardinal sin next to wearing a tuxedo to dinner and thus being mistaken for a waiter. This is the one plot line that got stuck in my head: Mary’s curt response to Matthew inquiring about her doctor’s visit. Along with turning the nursery to a sitting room. It surely adds up to more storming away in tears after a tense exchange in the Downton front hall! 

    Anyone else wondering why Mary is always written as an ungrateful sullen brat, Edith as the perpetual loser and Sybil as the saint? Just once I want to see Sybil throw a right royal fit because her bobby pins clash with her dress, Edith rescue a litter of stray puppies from drowning whilst inventing a cure to cancer and Mary donating all her shoes to charity! =D 

    • formerlyAnon

      I immediately wondered if Mary, perhaps, was inquiring about birth control? I know it existed, but I didn’t think it was the kind of thing that respectably married women consulted their family doctors about.

      • siriuslover

        or maybe she thought she was pregnant and somehow discovered she couldn’t have children? Would make sense about the turning the nursery into a study. But how would that have been certifiably discovered in 1920 (genuine question from someone who doesn’t know medicine)?

        • formerlyAnon

          Infertility as the problem would make more sense for the character, her station in life and the period – but like you, I don’t know if that could be determined at the period. Especially with a simple visit to the local doctor’s office.

          • Their doctor is the worst.  If Mary is told she can’t have children (which is my bet as to what dear Doc told her), then she will certainly end up pregnant by season’s end.

          • formerlyAnon

             That’s his track record!

          • Anna Bergman

             We know that Dr. Clarkson isn’t always aboveboard, not telling Matthew about the specialist’s diagnosis was pretty bad

      • Did they have birth control back then?


        • formerlyAnon

           They had diaphragms and something that (at least in America) were called “pessaries” that were similar to the cervical cap.  (Pessaries were often sold as “cervical support” devices where it was unlawful to provide birth control devices.) Women also used sponges, sometimes soaked in vinegar or in oil (or in conjunction with cocoa butter vaginal suppositories). There were a variety of other substances inserted or ingested to decrease fertility, but those are the ones I’ve read about which are thought to have had the most efficacy.

          I don’t know which of these things were widely available or where, though.

        • Hell, they used to stick stones into camels as a primitive IUD.

    • momjamin

       Between Mary’s response to Matthew in the nursery scene, and then her “Oh, Carson, DO hire the good-looking one!” I’d be feeling a bit put off if I were Matthew.

    • Re- Branson-
      As Strelnikov or  said in Dr. Zhivago, “The personal life  is dead”. Strelnikov left Lara and Lara’s kid somewhere in the Urals and never looked back.

      At least Branson keeps Sybil close to him, although he doesn’t tell her anything.

      For revolutionaries, life is the fight and the fight is the life.

  • If Tom and Sybil are now stuck at Downton and she’s having a baby, doesn’t it make sense to NOT repurpose the nursery as a sitting room?

    • Tally Ho

      It was, I think, the day nursery, otherwise just a playroom. There will be a night nursery elsewhere in the house where the kids actually slept. 

      Still wondering why Matthew and Mary haven’t moved into a place of their own. I suppose for plotting reason they need to be living at DA instead of in a nice house somewhere on the estate like the dower house. Or all the nice houses are already taken? Poor Matthew, it does seem like his life has been swallowed up by the forces around him and the opportunities for escape is slowly dwindling till the only way out is death. 

      • formerlyAnon

        I have high hopes for (finally!) a Matthew-centric drama in which he does not come across as hopeless. I want him and the estate manager to ally in instituting reforms for the estate’s financial benefit. Ahh, the DRAH-MAH, darlings!

        I see them eventually recruiting Cora & Grandmama Violet to their cause as the only practical salvation for the estate’s future, and poor Robert, who’s now being portrayed as a weak if well-meaning Dodo, is left alone on his ice floe as the only hold out.

        And Mary initially is reluctant about the changes, but she eventually forms part of Matthew’s team, which is the only thing holding them together as his desire for babies and her reluctance to produce them rip apart their personal life. (I’m now awaiting the dramatic moment when he discovers she’s practicing some kind of birth control. Though I’m not sure if any contemporary female methods were unobtrusive enough that he wouldn’t be aware pretty early on.)

        • Tally Ho

          It was odd to see Mary sound hesitant about having babies.

          The most important function for the wife of an aristocrat was to begat the heir (and a spare too). If anyone knew this it would be Mary. She should want to start popping out as many babies as possible to make sure there’s plenty of male heirs around. 

          • formerlyAnon

            Yes, you’re right about Mary’s job being to provide the heir & spare. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop concerning her evasiveness and the out-of-sync body language between her & Matthew in that  nursery/sitting room scene.

          • downtonfan_ma

             I didn’t see her as sounding hesitant about having babies. I thought she was worried that she wasn’t pregnant yet but she would never talk about that, even with Matthew

        • Anna Bergman

           Matthew is not the most observant fellow.

    • That place has 300 rooms.


  • I can’t believe AV Club gave this a D.

    • No kidding! I routinely go check out their review after Downton, but man, they really screwed the pooch on this ep.

      • I think it’s just a problem of the reviewer wanting the show to be something it’s not, or just being too harsh because the Bates storyline is boring. Of course it’s boring, but the rest of the show is a lot of fun.

    • not_Bridget

      Somehow, the reviewer had thought Downton was a quality intellectual entertainment instead of a well-dressed soap opera.  The disillusionment hit and she was crushed. 

      I thought it was an very pretty soap in series 1 but found the writing for series 2 quite bad.   Series 3 has been a bit better & the last episode was OK.  Still not really good–but better than a D. After all, Matthew didn’t leap from a wheelchair….

  • Jackie4g

    Last night’s episode was so interesting, I completely forgive Fellows for last week’s trite and predictable storylines. What’s nice is that we now have enough knowledge of about 20 different characters that the audience can speculate on what might happen. This episode sneakily re-engaged the viewer to care once again. Good TV!

  • librarygrrl64

    Mrs. Patmore: cock block. Poor Daisy…..

  • BayTampaBay

    I think there is more to it than “birth control” as Mary is a traditional “Lady” as she know her one job in life is to produce a male heir…something her “American” mother failed to do.

    • formerlyAnon

      You’re right. But I can’t come up with anything *more* plausible that a visit to their doctor could foreshadow.

      ETA: but perhaps I am not sufficiently taking into account the fact that plausibility is not a hallmark of a Downton Abbey plotline.

      • BayTampaBay

        No doubt something is going on and let’s hope Fellowes can “write” this one.

  • Lilithcat

    Her family, because they’re all kinda jerks, basically wave away all her thoughts and ambitions.

    Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s because they’re jerks.  It’s the typical treatment of a middle child, not unique to this family.  In fact, I think Fellowes has the dynamic of a family of three sisters absolutely dead on.  Bossy entitled-feeling oldest, independent-minded youngest, and ignored/trodden-upon middle sister.  That is exactly the way it is.

    • Lately I’ve been wondering if her parents know it was Edith who sent out the letter that
      ruined Mary’s reputation.


      • Lilithcat

        I have it in my head that they did know.  Or somebody did.  Maybe Mary?

        • ujkle

           I think (and it’s been a while since I watched it) that Evelyn Napier tipped Mary off about it. That there were rumours floating about and the reason they were getting credit was because they were from a letter from her sister. Something along those lines anyway.

          I don’t know if it ever got back to the rest of the family – maybe Cora? Robert seemed oblivious to the whole thing.

          • Anna Bergman

             Lord and Lady G. never found out about Edith writing the letter.  Lucky for Edith, that really may have got her sent to America.    It was a pretty terrrible thing for her to do, quarreling with a sister and trying to ruin her life (which it could have done) are very different.   They would have all been furious at Edith for risking the familie’s reputation, it was the most important thing.  Even Grandma Violet knew about Pamuk.

          • not_Bridget

            Yes, I rewatched that episode just recently, skipping through the dull bits. Evelyn Napier told Mary about the letter. Mary confronted Edith angrily but told nobody else.  Then she told Strallan that Edith had been making fun of him—causing him to abandon his plans to propose….

        • Qitkat

          I’m fairly sure I recall that Mary did finally learn this.

        • I know Mary knew but we never saw her tell her parents, or heard them mention it, that I can recall.


          • Lilithcat

            That’s probably what I was thinking of.  Or that of which I was thinking.

  • Bates & Anna are the romantic equivalent of Edith: A karmic shlimazl. I have a
    feeling it will stay that way til the very last episode…. Of season 5!

    Btw, PBS Thirteen is hosting a new kind of online screening and live chat tonight on
    OVEE (it’s something new different PBS stations are trying.) it’s at 9pm tonight. If you’d
    like to join in you can find the link here:


  • girliecue


    ET announced Dan Stevens won’t be turning next season. How does the BK Universe think they’re going to off him? I’ve always thought Lady Mary’s iron will would eventually break poor Matthew into a million pieces but do you think he’s just going to up and leave her?

    The good news is Maggie Smith signed on for the new season. Long live the Dowager Countess!

  • StillGary

    Re: OBrian -Barrows conflict — I cannot wait until these two reconcile and start hatching plots in the halls. I don’t crave cigarettes — but I love watching these two smoke, Is that weird, or what? 
    Anyway, given the writer’s hesitation to drag anything out this season (we’re broke — we’re not broke! Cancer? No, she’s fine) I think these characters are going to make amends faster than expected.  

  • SapphoPoet

    I really enjoyed this episode and also got a sense of pieces being placed for some future grand reveal. I do wish they’d get Bates back to the house, though. When you remove the focus from Downton Abbey, you run the risk of diluting the story line. The estate is the main character around which everything revolves, so to remove one of the characters from it doesn’t make sense. 

    Best line of the episode: Edith, you’re a woman with a brain and some reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do. 

    That was priceless. Go Edith!

    I’m intrigued by the notion that Lord Robert has been mismanaging (or, just not managing) the estate. Just because you’re born with lots of money doesn’t make you good at dealing with it. I really hope that Matthew finds a way to turn things around. 

    The story line with Ethel just broke my heart–I was in tears when she said goodbye to her son, especially when he reached out his little hand and put it on her sleeve.  

  • I thought this was a pretty good episode! We finally resolved the long-running Ethel conflict (which Isobel showed herself incapable of handling, and gave Mrs. Hughes’ practicality a chance to shine), the poor running of the estate is sure to provide for more Matthew/Mary/Robert drama, Edith has finally gotten sick of everyone’s shit and took a step toward dictating her own life, Thomas can hardly contain his lust for the new footman, which should promise some DELICIOUS drama between him and O’Brien, and Daisy finally gets one thing she wants, only to have the other snatched right out from under her nose, turning Angry Daisy into REALLY Angry Daisy. At least her father-in-law seems supportive, though. And along with most of the BKs I am also sick to death of the Bates storyline, but I feel like it’s finally starting to move in a more promising direction. We can only hope so.

    I’m wondering what’s going on with Mary and that nursery; Matthew surely seemed disappointed that she wasn’t pregnant, didn’t she? And just how far along should Sibyl be by now?? The costuming in that directly is severely lacking.

    Lastly, my God but I would LOVE to see Edith become a full-on flapper. She can smoke, write, and host lovers in a flat in London. Or perhaps pay Grandmother a visit in Newport and then swing down to the New York party scene.

    • Qitkat

      What a fun future you have envisioned for Edith. Would that something like this happens.

    • UglyTalents

      Exactly on Lady Edith: She needs to work on becoming an embarrassment to the family — so much so that they pay her a small stipend to live abroad, out of the spotlight … she can go off to Paris, be terribly bohemian, hang out with artists and homosexuals, paint or write experimental poetry, and have numerous affairs with gorgeous insane people of both sexes. This is what I want for Lady Edith. … Oh, and maybe myself.

  • Reading over the discussion about Branson/Sybil, I think I figured out something.  I totally understand why everyone was so pissed off at Branson but Sybil did say “WE decided.” when they were all yelling at him about leaving her alone.  I think he probably needed to get out of the country quickly and wanted her to go with him.  But, we all know how noble Sybil can be and she would have realized she’d slow him down and increase his chances of being caught.   The police weren’t after her and there was a slight possibility they would arrest her to draw him out but her family would’ve taken care of that.

    • BayTampaBay

      It came across to me that Sybil and Tom planned the whole thing…or more Sybil planned the whole thing as she seems to have the more practical brain of the two.  I think this whole “no more Ireland” thing is going to change Tom for the better.

    • MichaRSB

       Seriously! I mean, I’m inclined to like Branson because Sybil is my favorite, and anyone who makes her happy is okay by my books… but everyone else seems to hate him. But the two of them made it clear that it was a mutual decision to have her come afterwards! Also, did Edith not tell everyone that Sybil said she was FINE on the telephone!?!? And, really, it was ONE day she was by herself! She can take care of herself, as we’ve seen!

    • Anna Bergman

       Sybil was being noble and he should have been also.   Sybil was absolutely clueless about the consequences.

  • mskgb

    Horrors! I’ve called a bouillon spoon a “soup spoon” my entire life. #izcretin

    • Nice burn @Thomas in that scene!!

    • Me too. How can I live with the shame?


    • RroseSelavy

      If we all had a Carson in our life, we would avoid such embarrassments. I would have one room for Carson and another for Mr. Miyagi, and I would do no wrong evermore.

  • mskgb

    I believe “He looks like a footman in a musical review” places ahead of the “stop whining” remark. However, this week’s win goes to Carson: “Are we not sheltering a dangerous criminal? Could you not at least spare me that?” Marking the dropping of standards, electric toaster by electric toaster.

  • Miranda Prince

    You can add me to the list of people who are sick of the Bates-Anna storyline. Jeez, just give them a happy ending and move on. And honestly … has anyone in the history of the universe ever committed suicide as a way of screwing someone else over? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face … 

    • Lilithcat

      has anyone in the history of the universe ever committed suicide as a way of screwing someone else over?

      Yes.  Not necessarily in the sense of disguising it as murder to implicate someone*, but certainly in the sense of wanting revenge, or making someone sorry.  

      Although murder disguised as suicide is more common, the opposite has occurred.  There have been a couple of cases that I’ve read about, one involving Munchausen’s Syndrome, one where it was an attempt to make sure family could collect on insurance.

      *That’s pretty common in fiction, though.  See Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Problem of Thor Bridge, for instance.

      • Corsetmaker

        It was the Madeleine Smith case in Victorian Glasgow I kept thinking of. She was a well to do girl with a lower class secret lover whom she tried to ditch. He died of arsenic poisoning and she was tried and at the time even her lawyer believed her guilty but she got off and lived a long life, eventually moving to New York. But when you look into the victims past he was rather unstable and had been known to use arsenic for vanity reasons. Quite possible it was either accidental or suicide.

    • I loved Bates and Anna at first, but now I’m dreading their scenes. I’m almost hoping that Bates actually did it, just to give the whole thing some interest. That prison conspiracy doesn’t do it for me.

    • Maybe she didn’t plan to commit suicide. She knew he was coming home; maybe she wanted and expected to be found and taken to the hospital, where she would be saved but he suspected to trying to kill her, but he was late, or he just let he lay there.



    Oh, please dear lord, can we wrap up the Bates/Anna dullness? And I was struck also about the about face by Robert to matthew about the estate but even more so my Mary!  After begging, bullying and threatening him to “save the day” with all the money, she now oh so quickly dismisses his input into the estate affairs.  I’ve never been a Lady Mary fan and even less so as weeks go by….

  • wawawah

    The butler is going to do it!?! They ALWAYS do!

  • Qitkat

    Best episode this season. The Earl of Grantham has finally been completely revealed as a clueless doofus, somewhat lovable, but not always. They’ve been hinting at this for some time. Sweet Daisy at the farm. Loved it. Isn’t it charming how much William’s father adores her? (Forgot his name.) The honeymoon is really over for Mary and Matthew. I wonder if he is going to become more and more dissatisfied with both his marriage and his conflict with his father in law. Ethel is painted from real life I assume, but such a tragic life for her. I haven’t yet seen Les Miz, but was thinking of the song “I Dreamed a Dream” during her scenes.

    • Daisy – no day off! Works at the farm and then the kitchen. She will have a breakdown soon.

  • TAT93

    I’m just really hoping that Thomas won’t be screwed over by that new footman and O’Brien too badly. Bless him. ALSO, forgive me for wanting a REVENGE recap please!!! So much has been going on for the past two weeks, especially this week, I’m just curious to see what TLO will say about that, I’ve heard some really mixed reviews though.

  • Mary goes from wife in love to bitch on wheels so fast it’s a wonder she doesn’t get whiplash.

  • This comment from the NY mag commenter nicely articulates what I finally realized about Fellowes:

    “Please. Branson-the-Irish-Republican only bugs us because this show is written by a British Baron. Sweeping character assassination much? Hey Fellowes, how about a little subtlety and objectivity rather than making the Irish chauffeur nigh on irredeemable?””

    •  It’s either that or go after the brutes from the North instead. It’s a British thing, apparently.

    • Anna Bergman

       but if it were subtle and objective it wouldn’t be Downton Abbey

  •  Can’t wait to see Edith in true flapper dress.
    Will she smoke also? In front of Granny?

  • Pennymac

     Excellent turn of phrase, GT. Karmic shlimazl indeed!!

  • I love Elizabeth McGovern as Clara so much. I love the dialect she’s using, I love her wounded puppy eyes when she hears that O’Brien will be abandoning her. No one ever talks about her, but she’s my favorite. Loved Grandmama’s rush to the altar to grasp Edith and hiss “let him go” in her ear like some avenging angel. Wonderful work by Maggie Smith. But this episode was Carson for the win. I heart Carson. The Crawleys are mostly a bunch of drips.

  • I really can’t stand how Branson has been scripted into a totally self-serving, unreasonable coward.  This is a dude that stayed working for “the man” for years specifically because he was in love with one of his master’s daughters.  Previously, he was willing to risk prison by refusing to go to war, and for assaulting a military general with a tureen of cow pie and now he wants to save his own ass for being involved in something he was borderline guilty of?  Old Branson would’ve sent Sibyl home first and then gone off to participate in the revolution.

    A big *sigh* on the Anna/BateZZZZ plot line.  I wish they’d stop dragging it out so much.  The house would be much more interesting with Bates there putting Thomas back in his place as first footman.  Maybe that’s what they’re ultimately setting up with the handsome footman?  Thomas Barrows outed and disgraced so the recently exonerated Mr. Bates can have a job?

    And I think this Matthew is just as obnoxious as the “I’m too good for this aristocratic nonsense” version we met in the beginning.  He’s pretty consistent, I think.  Also, EDITH NEEDS TO GET HER SOME.  Run away with the footman?

    • Anna Bergman

       I couldn’t agree more about Branson.   Everyone else was helping the war effort and all he did was mess around with the car and stalk Sybil.    His comrades would have  thought he was an idiot if he were jailed for dumping a tureen of stuff on a a general.  It surprised me that Carson was so forgiving. 

  • Amy Hegel

    I love the costumes! The jewelry! The manor house! The parties! Then there’s that damn jail cell.

  • SVLynn

    I really miss O’Brien and Thomas as the diabolical duo. Just the bitchery and the cigarette breaks alone were so fun to watch, not so sure I’m going to like them going at each other. Agree with the toaster, there should be a place where we can bet who will cause the fire, it’s inevitable.

    • RroseSelavy

      Since O’Brien gave Thomas all of his best diabolical moves, he doesn’t stand a chance.

  • Has anyone watched the show about the history of Highclere Castle?  Julian Fellowes is friends with the current owners and it seems he has taken several plot points from things that happened to actual inhabitants of the estate.  The American heiress who saved it from financial ruin and the medical facility during the war are two that pop into my head.

  • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

    Cadaverous Escapades – If I ever form a band, that’s what I’m calling it.

  • When Sybil finally gave Branson her answer, she didn’t tell him she’d always loved him or wanted to spend her life with him or anything personal or romantic. She said she wanted to travel and he was her ticket!  He seemed pleased with that answer! Then she told him he could kiss her. The camera pulled away but you could see the couple in an awkward looking embrace. I love Sybil, but her motives for marrying Tom seemed false to me. Was she that desperate to escape Downton?

    • RroseSelavy

      I would desperately want to escape being nothing but a hothouse flower, but to travel, you need bucks. I’d find some rich adventurer instead.

  •  I think Mary shows signs of being a junior version of her grandmother Violet!

    • SewingSiren

      I’ve always thought that. She’ll be an old lady before her time and be tut-tutting the youth before we know it.

      • Lilithcat

        And they’ve got a lot of lawn for the kids to get off of.

  •  hen Sybil finally gave Branson her answer, she didn’t tell him she’d
    always loved him or wanted to spend her life with him or anything
    personal or romantic. She said she was ready to travel and he was her
    ticket!  He seemed pleased with that answer! Then she told him he could
    kiss her. The camera pulled away but you could see the couple in an
    awkward looking embrace. I love Sybil, but her motives for marrying Tom
    seemed false to me. Was she that desperate to escape Downton?

  • Trisha26

    Okay – you’re hearing it from me (I thought I’d said so before…not that you read these posts) – I LOVE the Bates/Anna storyline and get misty-eyed and concerned for them. They are the only 2 decent characters – in terms of acutal “decency” – the rest are great fun, but to me B&A are the heart & soul of the entire drama.

  • Like you guys, I didn’t roll my eyes for once. I thought is was possibly the best episode Downton Abbey Season 3 has had. I can’t wait to see how the Jimmy/Thomas/O’Brien storyline is going to play out. Of course, it’s going to turn out really bad for Thomas, I’m sure.  

  • Like you guys, I didn’t roll my eyes for once. I thought is was possibly the best episode Downton Abbey Season 3 has had. I can’t wait to see how the Jimmy/Thomas/O’Brien storyline is going to play out. Of course, it’s going to turn out really bad for Thomas, I’m sure.  

  • 4JJ

    Very late chiming in, as we had to record the episode and actually interact with family members in the last few days, finding time to watch the episode only last night. It was worth the wait, and I agree with everything in the TLo summary. It was great to see plot developments that weren’t ridiculous and the characters all behaving in character. Violet’s suggestion that the castle in Ireland was actually hideous enough to merit being torched almost took her character’s offbeat outspokenness too far, but it was a damn funny line, so I’m glad it was there.

    I am so RELIEVED that my husband and I have not lost our ability to follow a story. Turns out we’re in intelligent and discerning company in not having one sweet clue about what’s going on with Bates. We kept thinking we had missed something when our cat meowed or our son made a comment in passing, but it appears it’s Fellowes who has missed a comprehensible subplot. If All Will Be Revealed on this, I hope it’s soon, since these prison scenes are not only very boring, we find it impossible to remember details we didn’t understand in the first place.

    My only moments of sheer fury were husbands letting down their wives: Tom’s cowardly flight and Bates believing for one second that Anna had deserted  him. That was a COME ON! moment for me, though Bates is such a sad sack that maybe it was totally in character when I think about it.

    The relationship between Mrs Hughes and Carson continues to be adorable, and Mrs Hughes gets my vote for current favourite.