Downton, after what happened last week, is in uncharted territory—and here be spoilers.
That said, not too much new happened at the still-in-shock estate this time around. Mostly just lots of sad people wearing black clothes—along with sad music and tense exchanges, upstairs and down—and setting up future plot developments.
But everyone has different ways of dealing with their grief: Isobel wants to have the ladies over for lunch, Mary hopes that Mr. Bates is released soon so that they get some good news, Thomas cops a feel of Jimmy’s leg—and, most of all, Cora continues to blame Robert for their daughter’s death, refusing him from her bedroom and from conversation. When it comes to servants and titles, Cora is willing to put her American upbringing aside and let Robert’s English-aristocrat ways determine the course of their lives, but now Sybil is dead because he thought a knighthood and a fashionable address meant a man was a good doctor. That she won’t forgive.
The baby, as Tom points out, is the only one who has managed to escape the sadness. Tom plans to leave Downton when the baby is weaned by the wet nurse, to make a life for himself, and Robert supports it—just as Sybil predicted he would. But that could lead Tom back to his life as a mechanic, taking their daughter with him, which is just what she didn’t want. There’s also the matter of the christening. The baby will be named Sybil, even though Robert thinks it’s “ghoulish.” And she will be a Catholic like her father—which, again, the late Sybil predicted would ruffle feathers—even though there hasn’t been a Catholic Crawley since the Reformation. (Good thing Mary received Sybil’s instructions about the baby’s religion. Phew. Even though, as Matthew points out, it’s eerie that she knew to tell her sister what to do about that.)
Ethel convinces Mrs. Patmore to share some recipes for the ladies’ lunch Isobel is hosting, even though Mr. Carson has forbidden the women of Downton from interacting with her. Carson catches Mrs. Patmore, but she defends herself—and Ethel’s food ends up edible for once! Cora doesn’t even want to go, but she’s convinced by the family, and they all get to eat lunch and wear black hats and discuss lady things. Like how Edith still hasn’t decided whether to write her column about modern women for The Sketch. Her mother—and most of the women—think she shouldn’t care what Lord Grantham thinks about it. Which, of course, is Robert’s cue to barge in and say it is inappropriate for them to eat food prepared by a former prostitute. Isobel has exposed the family to scandal! They must leave! But Cora refuses to get up, and the rest of the family follows her cue. Everyone is ganging up on Robert, which Mary—probably his closest analog, personality-wise—picks up on right away.
It’s not just the ladies, either. Matthew, of course, manages to turn Sybil’s death into a metaphor for why they need better estate management. Also, the only thing he can take for granted is his luuuurve for Mary. Awww. No, but seriously, the estate is being badly managed. Really. Even Tom agrees. And when he and Matthew go for a BFF walk around the tenant farms, Matthew learns that Tom is the grandson of a farmer, so he actually knows what he’s doing when it comes to the estate.
And speaking of farms… Downstairs, Jimmy/James and Alfred continue to vie for Ivy’s attention—Mrs. Patmore smartly pointing out that they’re all in love with the wrong person—while Daisy goes to visit Mr. Mason, her father-in-law from her brief marriage to William, the footman who died of his war wounds. He has an offer for her: as his only descendant, she should take over the farm, even though she’s a woman and has little experience as a farmer. He owns all the equipment and stock outright and she’s used to hard work and he’ll teach her all he knows and she could sell homemade jam. Homemade jam! Plus, he points out, she’s young—and it’s unlikely that a great estate like Downton will continue to exist in its current state for another 40 years. Oh, snap! Take that, Lord Grantham.
Further evidence that times they are a-changing: Later, Thomas interprets Jimmy’s lack of interest in Ivy as an indication that Jimmy might be interested in…someone else. Jimmy plays some modern-y sounding music on the piano—while, to his consternation, Thomas touches his neck—and Ivy is caught wearing rouge on her face, which she tells Mrs. Patmore all the girls are doing these days. Daisy offers to teach Alfred to do the foxtrot. (Favorite moment of the episode, for American ears at least: Daisy’s lilting pronunciation of “slow.”) Then Jimmy blows up his spot, saying Alfred only wants to dance with Ivy, and Jimmy steps in to dance with Daisy—leading him to a demotion to second footman for the crime of dancing during mourning.
There are hints, though, that happy things are on the horizon.
For one thing, the Dowager Countess convinces Dr. Clarkson to say that the chance Sybil would have survived was very small in either case; Dr. Clarkson was right but that does not necessarily mean she would have lived if they followed his advice. Robert and Cora are finally able to forgive each other and cry together. (And with us, if we’re being honest…)
Meanwhile, Murray, experienced walrus-lawyer that he is, sees through the lies when he goes to visit Mrs. Bartlett. Vera’s friend’s story has changed; by “dinner” she meant the mid-day meal, she says. But what about her line about the gas-lamp halo around Mrs. Bates? She says she doesn’t remember saying that but Murray thinks she’s been bribed. Bates ominously promises to make sure she changes her mind, and because he’s become really scary—remember sweet Bates from Season 1? What happened to him?—he does so by threatening his evil cellmate. And, drumroll, it works! Mrs. Bartlett talked! Mr. Bates has been cleared and will soon be a free man, and hopefully a nice one like he was before. We only want the best for Anna, don’t we? There’s been enough sadness already.
Dowager Zinger of the Week: ”‘Lie.’ So unmusical a word.”
History Lesson of the Week: Daisy’s dance lesson wasn’t just fun to listen to: it was right. The foxtrot is danced slow, slow, quick-quick. It was invented in the 1910s by a vaudeville performer who went by the name ‘Harry Fox.’