Last night’s episode of Downton brought the series full circle, bringing back a character from the 1st series, reminding us once again that the times, they are a changing. Even Branson has come around to thinking that capitalism is a good thing. His time in America has brought home one thing, that a man, no matter his social class, can rise to the top, if he has ambition and the drive to succeed. Mary points out that still isn’t so easy in England. One wonders if Branson will feel the same way about capitalism in 1929 when the stock market crashes. In the meantime, he’s happy to let Mary continue to be the estate’s agent, while he figures out exactly what it is he wants to do with his life.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes are off on their honeymoon in Scarborough, much to Lady Mary’s disgust. She wishes that something better could have been found for them, even though Lord Grantham points out that it was the honeymoon Mrs. Hughes and Carson wanted. Thomas is now in charge as butler while they are gone. After moping around the house for the past three episodes, moaning about getting the sac, Thomas is eager to prove his worth, bossing the staff around, reminding them who is in charge if only temporarily. Unfortunately Thomas doesn’t have Carson’s touch with the staff. He wishes that he had Baxter’s ability to make friends. Baxter returns the compliment, she admires him for not caring about other people’s opinions. “You’re wrong about me,” he says. “I mind what people say.” That’s the problem. He cares too much.
Violet, unsuccessfully, attempts to coerce her friend Lady Shackleton into supporting her in the ongoing hospital feud but her Ladyship does re-introduce Mary to her nephew Henry Talbot, a dashing racing car driver. While the two check each other out, Violet and Lady Shackleton discuss Henry’s prospects like he’s a prize race horse. Unfortunately, ‘40 strong men would have to drop dead’ before Henry would inherit the Earldom of Shrewsbury, (“Well,” replies Violet, “nothing is impossible.”) and he has ‘adequate but not overwhelming’ prospects. “Mary needs more than a handsome smile and a hand on the gear stick.” When Lord Grantham expresses surprise that she knows what a gear stick is, Violet snaps, “I know more than you think!”
Lord Grantham’s sister Rosamund is a trustee of Hillcroft College (which actually exists), a place where adult women from modest backgrounds can gain the education that they lack. She wants Edith to get involved as well as a trustee. When the treasurer, Mr. Harding arrives at Downton with his wife, she turns out to be Gwen, the housemaid from season 1, who left to take an office job. Thomas is put out that not only has Gwen succeeded in the world outside of Downton, but also that she seems to be keeping her true identity under wraps while meeting with the family. Thank goodness, Thomas is there to tell the family that Gwen once worked for them! Instead of them tossing her out on her ear, the family are embarrassed and apologetic that they didn’t recognize her. Gwen tells them how kind Lady Sibyl was to her when she was in service, how she helped her to apply for jobs, which shocks Thomas. Lord Grantham chastises Barrow for his behavior. Later on, when Barrow tells his lordship how much enjoyed being butler, he tells Thomas that people are loyal to Carson because he’s kind.
You can’t help but pity Barrow, he’s his own worst enemy. How can he be kind to others, when he’s never experienced kindness himself? Thomas reminds me of an animal that has been so abused, that when it’s finally shown kindness, it bites instead. He’s so full of self-loathing that last season, he tried to cure himself of being gay, and almost died. And he’s so fearful of moving away from Downton that he turned down a chance to become a valet in America, where he might have had a chance at happiness or a better life.
The mention of Sibyl leads Edith to decide to hire a woman editor for her magazine, and even Mary resolves to try and be a nicer person. When Anna is experiencing pains, Mary and Tom drive to Yorkshire so that they can catch a train to London immediately to see the doctor. Of course, Anna doesn’t tell Bates what’s going on. She lies and tells him that Mary needs to see the doctor. In London, super-gyno sews up Anna’s incompetent womb, promising to double his bill for making an emergency house call at the crack of dawn. While in London, she meets up with Henry Talbot for a drink, and they flirt outrageously some more. I like Lady Mary more when she’s not being outrageously snobby or mean to Edith. And Matthew Goode can make reading the telephone book sound dirty. Look at this exchange.
Mary: “So! You really are a car man. I wasn’t sure how much you meant it.”
Henry: “Oh. I really am a car man.”
See what I mean? Of course, Mary plays hard to get. It wouldn’t do to just jump his bones immediately.
“I hope this means you’re boiling up to make a pass before we’re done.”
“Probably,” Henry replies. “But will you accept?”
“No, but I shall enjoy the process immensely.”
Sgt. Willis is back. Apparently the only crimes that take place in England involve members of the household staff at Downton. Peter Coyle, the man that Baxter stole jewelry for, is up to his old tricks again. He wants Baxter to testify to finally put this guy behind bars before he ruins other women’s lives. Baxter, however, is reluctant to get involved. Moseley tries to convince her otherwise, (“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”) and even enlists Cora’s help. Baxter only comes around when Sgt. Willis informs her that two of the maids that Coyle was involved with have become prostitutes, and another has died. And Comrade Daisy is up in arms when she learns that the family is thinking of farming Yew Tree Farm, instead of leasing it to Mr. Mason. Mrs. Patmore tries to calm her down, pointing out that Lady Grantham never promised Yew Tree Farm to Mr. Mason. Instead of listening to reason, Daisy decides that she’s going to confront Cora. Moseley points out that the last time Daisy went off half-cocked, she almost lost her job but Daisy doesn’t care. She’s on a mission.
Luckily for Daisy, Cora has convinced the family (sans Mary) to let Mr. Mason have Yew Tree, which takes the wind out of her sails for a bit. And finally we learn just why Violet is against the merger with the Royal Yorkshire, her fears that the government will take control and the villagers will have less care than before. Totally understandable, even Isobel admits that she can understand her reservations now. However, Robert has been having serious stomach pains lately, so Violet might need to rethink her stance on the merger.
Anna finally lets the cat out of the bag and tells Bates that he’s going to be a dad but the big question of the night is what to call Mrs. Hughes now that she’s married to Carson? Mrs. Carson? Mrs. Hughes-Carson? Carson settles the matter by telling the family and the staff that have gathered to celebrate their return that Mrs. Hughes will still be called Mrs. Hughes. The episode ends with Carson taking one final look at his room upstairs, and then taking his name off the plate outside, as he heads off to his new home on the estate.