Downton Abbey Recap: The Baby Blues

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Nick Briggs / Carnival Films / PBS

You know Downton‘s getting its sadness on when an episode starts with Anna walking forlornly across the estate’s lawn, all alone.

Read on for what happens when she gets there — with spoilers for last night’s episode.

(CATCH UP: Read last week’s Downton recap)

O.K., so after Anna gets up to Downton, Mr. Bates arrives to ask why she didn’t wait for him before leaving for work. She says that she just had some things to get done, but it’s clear that things are very bad in the Bates household — and with good reason. After the heartbreaking assault suffered Anna last week, she won’t let her husband touch her, nor will she tell him why. At breakfast — as Green, her rapist, watches — Anna makes excuses to the other staff members for the injuries on her face, and Mrs. Hughes keeps the secret despite questioning from Mr. Bates.

As the weekend partiers leave a house much more somber than the one to which they arrived, Mary turns down Lord Gillingham’s offer to hang out some more, Rose and Sir John Bullock discuss meeting up soon, and the Duchess of Yeovil gives Tom some very sweet advice about grief. While it may feel disloyal to one’s departed spouse to go on with one’s life, that’s what one must eventually do.

It’s a message that’s emerging as a theme for the season: Can Mary, or Isobel, go on with her life without Matthew? Can Tom without Sybil? Can Anna without the happiness and dignity she once took for granted?

For Isobel, the answer is beginning to be yes. When she runs into Dr. Clarkson — in a graveyard, for some reason — and he asks her to help out at a new clinic, she says she’ll think about it. For Mary, the duty of working on the estate is also proving to be a positive influence, as she arranges to go to London to talk to the taxmen about Matthew’s death duties; Tom and Rose will come along. For Tom, it’s not so easy: after his drunken indiscretion with the scheming maid Edna last week, after she plied him with whiskey and crept into his bedroom, she expects a repeat performance soon (and, since Thomas sees the two talking, the scheming is sure to continue). As Tom is packing to go to London with Mary, Edna sneaks into his room and and is all, ‘You can’t ignore me because I might be pregnant, and what would you do if I am?’

And for Anna, as others begin to notice that something is off with her, it’s hardest of all — so hard that she tells Mrs. Hughes that, when she returns from accompanying Mary to London, she wants to move out of the cottage she shares with her husband and back into the house with the unmarried maids. She can’t let Bates touch her because she feels dirty, but she can’t talk to him or to the police because “better a broken heart than a broken neck.” Mrs. Hughes asks what she’ll do if she’s pregnant.

While Edna is obviously wishing for a baby from her one night with Tom, Anna has also thought about the consequences of a baby resulting from the happenings of that same night and has a different conclusion: if she’s pregnant, she’ll kill herself.

(MORE: TIME taste-tests the Downton Abbey tea truck)

In London, it turns out that Aunt Rosamund has invited Lord Gillingham and Sir John to come over, and John suggests they all go to the swanky Lotus Club to hear the new band. Gillingham and Mary dance; John and Rose dance; Rosamund and Tom make sure nobody steals their table. Though previously Lord Gillingham had been all about Mabel Lane-Fox, tonight he tells Mary that he’s only almost engaged. Sir John drinks too much and embarrasses Rose; when he runs off the dance floor to go barf, she’s rescued from standing there alone by the band leader, Jack Ross — played by Gary Carr, the first black actor cast on the show. They don’t dance long, however, since Tom fetches her so they can all leave. They head back to Downton soon, but it’s not long before Gillingham shows up again (thankfully without his valet). He explains that he came to ask Mary to marry him. He’s like, Matthew’s dead and I’m not and we get along, take a few years but promise me first and I’ll it break off with Mabel Lane-Fox — a turn of events that would certainly hasten Mary’s return to non-widowhood.

While Mary thinks it over, Branson goes to confess what’s happened to Mrs. Hughes, taking Mary’s advice that if there’s something bothering him he should talk it over with someone he trusts. Mrs. Hughes summons Edna — who had recently told Thomas that one day he’d be glad to have stayed on her good side — for a confrontation. Edna assumes they’re trying to pay her off, to which she says she’d rather her baby have a father, but Mrs. Hughes says she knows she’s not actually pregnant — she found a copy of Marie Stopes’ Married Love in Edna’s room, so she knows Edna knows how to prevent a pregnancy, and she knows that if Tom had stepped up Edna would have just gone and gotten pregnant by someone else, and she knows that if Edna tells Her Ladyship then there will no job reference. Mrs. Hughes! So smart! So tricky! Edna leaves Downton again, this time probably for good.

Anna uses the extra work brought by Edna’s absence as her excuse to move back into the house, though Lord Grantham assures Mr. Bates that his love for Anna will prevail. And Thomas hints that he has an idea for who could fill the job opening, so get ready for another tricky character joining the fray soon. (Other goings-on downstairs during this episode include Carson and Mrs. Hughes talking about his long lost love, Ivy and Jimmy seeming to actually start to fall for each other, Alfred deciding to apply for a chef training school, Alfred seeing Ivy and Jimmy kissing, and Mrs. Patmore advising Daisy not to pine over Alfred while he’s too busy pining over Ivy and practicing his cooking.)

Edith hasn’t been around much — being “about as mysterious as a bucket” per Mary, she ran off to London to see Michael Gregson. There, at his home, late at night, they’re alone. He’s all lovey dovey and also asks her to take charge of his affairs while he’s off in Munich, working on a novel while he waits to become a citizen so he can get a divorce. The she’s like, ‘What’s the plan for tonight?’ and he’s like, ‘Let’s stay in, know what I’m saying, wink wink.’ Actual saxophoney smooth jazz music plays while they kiss. Early the next morning, Edith sneaks back into Aunt Rosamund’s — but Rosamund confronts her, knowing what she was up to. Not sparing Edith’s feelings, she brings up the fact that Edith — who was jilted once before — knows that a man’s confessions of love won’t necessarily lead to a marriage, and that trusting Michael with her reputation is immoral and risky. Though pregnancy is a main concern for Edna and Anna when it comes to sex out of wedlock, high-class Edith need not conceive for the social consequences to be grave. Though Edith is happy today, Aunt Rosamund warns her that she may come to regret her decision.

Back at Downton, Mary has come to a decision herself. It’s too fast to go back to romance, and she can’t promise herself to Gillingham while she still loves Matthew. Though she gives him a kiss, she sends him away — leaving us with another Crawley sister worried that she may have made a mistake.

Dowager Zinger of the Week: “If we only had moral thoughts, what would the poor churchmen find to do?”

History Lesson of the Week:

The book with which Mrs. Hughes traps Edna is a real thing, Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties by Marie Stopes, first published in 1918. “The problems of sex-life are infinitely complex, and for their solution urgently demand both sympathy and scientific research,” the author writes in the preface. “I have some things to say about sex, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet been said, things which seem to be of profound importance to men and women who hope to make their marriages beautiful.” Though Stopes says that children are the ultimate purpose of love, she acknowledges that they are not the only reason a married couple has sex; she directs readers elsewhere for more details on preventing pregnancy but touches on a few basics (a vinegar and water solution to kill sperm) in the text.

3 comments
BorquitaLaLaurie
BorquitaLaLaurie

Sex and infidelity, lies and illegitimate babies, lost love and the pursuit of love -- all are the stuff that the human drama called Life are made of. I never understand how calling a dramatic show a "soap opera" has become a denunciation. If not for human foibles, what would be left to watch? More importantly, would anyone want to watch it week after week?

More importantly, I thought that black singer pinged my gaydar. His singing voice left a lot to be desired, too.