Despite his hidebound punctiliousness, Carson (Jim Carter) can prove a sage at times. He did so in last night’s episode of Downton Abbey when the butler weighed in with the observation, “The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.”
Plenty of memories were acquired in the episode as lady’s maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) continued to keep her rape secret from husband Bates (Brendan Coyle), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) received a surprise marriage proposal and former chauffer-turned-widowed son-in-law and estate manager Tom (Allen Leech) escaped a close call with a conniving servant.
Anna, who was raped in the previous episode by Green (Nigel Harmon), a valet who accompanied an aristocratic visitor to Downton Abbey, is still insisting on keeping the crime from her loving husband, Bates. She shrinks from Bates’ touch and won’t tell him what’s wrong other than that he himself is blameless.
Everyone in the house can sense that something’s wrong with Anna, including Lady Mary, who expresses concern. The only one who knows the truth, housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), keeps urging Anna to report the crime and tell Bates what happened, even as Anna insists that she wants to move out of the cottage she shares with Bates and back into the servants’ quarters at Downton Abbey.
“I’m soiled,” Anna tells Mrs. Hughes, vowing that she’ll kill herself if she turns out to be pregnant. Mrs. Hughes clucks sympathetically and again urges Anna to let Bates know what’s going on. Anna insists that she can’t because her husband, who spent time in jail last season for a crime he didn’t commit, would murder Green and then face the noose himself. “Better a broken heart than a broken neck,” says Anna. Mrs. Hughes clucks some more.
Tony, Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), smitten with Mary after his visit to Downton for the weekend house party, goes into pursuit mode. Before leaving Downton, he asks Mary if he might see her again but she demurs. Her mother, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), gets into the act, urging husband Robert’s sister, Rosamund (Samantha Bond), to invite Tony over when Mary heads to London with cousin Rose (Lily James) and Tom for a brief visit. In London, Tony again presses his suit but Mary, who lost dreamy hubby Matthew less than a year ago, puts him off. “I’m not ready and I won’t be for some years,” she says. Nonetheless, she enjoys a dance with Tony when the whole party go for an evening out at a London night club.
Proving himself impetuous, Tony then follows Mary back to Downton, where he declares himself in love with her and proposes marriage. “I never met Matthew but I’m sure he was a splendid chap. But he’s dead and I’m alive. We could be good together,” he tells her. Mary says she’ll think about it.
A day later, the two walk the grounds of Downton together. Tony again presses his suit. Mary, having cogitated on the matter, tells him that her answer is no. “It’s no good, Tony. I can’t. Matthew fills my brain still and I don’t want to be without him. Not yet,” she says, giving Tony a sad smile.
He accepts her rejection, tells her it means that he’ll wed the near fiancé he would have thrown over for Mary, and requests one kiss before he goes. “I will never love again as I love you in this moment and I must have something to remember,” he says. They smooch and Mary clearly is more affected by the kiss than she would have expected.
Tom finds himself caught in a pickle thanks to scheming Edna Braithwaite (MyAnna Burling), Cora’s newly hired lady’s maid. She snuck into his bedroom one night during the house party and claims that they had sex. Tom, who was drunk as a skunk at the time, has no real memory of the encounter but apologizes for whatever happened. Edna demands to know if he’ll marry her if she turns out to be pregnant. “Don’t say I’m not good enough. If you were good enough for Sybil Crawley, then I’m good enough for you,” Edna tells him.
“Don’t speak her name,” the still grieving Tom spits out at Edna of his beloved dead wife.
Tom spends much of the rest of the episode brooding over what to do about Edna. Mary picks up on his being in a funk and urges him to confide in someone about his troubles. He heeds her advice and confesses all to Mrs. Hughes. The housekeeper takes charge, summoning Edna and confronting her with a book on birth control that the lady’s maid had had secreted away in her room. “There is no child. Edna’s not pregnant. Do you think she would let herself get pregnant before she was sure of you?” Mrs. Hughes asks Tom. Edna is furious but Mrs. Hughes, going all gangsta’, orders her to resign and shuts off any further protests be telling her, “If you want a reference or another job during your natural lifetime, you’ll hold your tongue!”
At the end of the episode, as Tom and Mary drive off to meet with the tax men about the death taxes owed on Matthew’s share of the estate, Tom tells Mary that he took her advice and now he’s “off the hook.” Mary says she’s pleased for him and then confides to her brother-in-law, without telling him about Tony’s proposal, “I’ve just done something that I fear I may regret for a long time to come.”
In other developments:
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) finally gets between the sheets with a beau. While in London, she visits with her publisher, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), at his home. He tells her that he is moving to Germany in a week, where he hopes to establish citizenship so that he can legally divorce his whacko wife, who’s in a nut house, and wed Edith. He asks Edith to sign documents that give her control of his estates should something happen to him. She–don’t do it, girl, without first talking to a lawyer!—goes ahead and signs. Then Michael makes it clear he hopes she’ll stay the night and they starting kissing warmly.
Cut to Edith sneaking back into Aunt Rosamund’s London townhouse at the crack of dawn. Later that morning, Rosamund confronts Edith, telling her that a maid caught her walk of shame. Rosamund tells Edith to be careful. “You’re gambling with your future,” she warns her.
Footman Alfred Nugent (Matt Milne) is thinking about moving to London to train as a chef. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) advises kitchen maid Daisy (Sophie McShera), who has long been carrying a torch for Alfred, that maybe it’s for the best. “Sometimes you can spend too long on a one-sided love,” the cook tells her helper.
Bates seeks marital advice from his employer, Robert, Lord Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), after Anna tells him she’s leaving him to move back to the big house. “There is no such thing as a marriage between two intelligent people that doesn’t sometimes have to negotiate thin ice. I know. You must wait until things become clear, and they will. The damage cannot be irreparable when a man and a woman love each other as much as you do,” Robert offers. Then, giving his valet a sheepish grin, he says, “My God, that was strong talk for an Englishman!”
Cousin Rose, while at the London nightclub, begins what is clearly going to be a flirtation with a black bandleader, one that will doubtless shock more conservative family members. She meets him when her boorish date ditches her on the dance floor as, about to vomit after too much booze, he bolts for the men’s room. Jack Ross (Gary Carr), the bandleader, rescues a stranded and embarrassed Rose by coming off the stage and finishing the dance with her. They exchange names and, as she departs the club, he serenades her by singing a song with her name in it. “Things have come to a pretty pass when you have to be rescued by a black bandleader,” sniffs Aunt Rosamund.
Violet, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), spends the episode nodding sympathetically to those around her and keeping a watchful eye on goings-on. When Isobel (Penelope Wilton) speaks kindly to Tony, despite the fact that he clearly has romantic designs on Isobel’s son’s widow, Violet takes that as a sign that the grieving do-gooder is finally moving foreword with her life, just as Violet has been urging her to do. “She is a good woman,” Violet quietly murmurs to Robert. “Though often her phases are is enough to set one’s teeth on edge, there are moments when her virtue demands admiration.”
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