In the second part of this week's extended Downton Abbey
, Robert goes insane about a cricket match, the fate of Thomas is decided and Matthew and Mary work out their baby problems. While this isn't the last episode of Downton Abbey
we'll be seeing (that will be next week's polarizing Christmas special), this was the last episode of season 3 in the UK and it leaves us off on a surprisingly positive note.Recap Part 1: The Fall of Thomas >>>
With the war over and peace finally in England, the conflicts have become more internal than external this season. Instead of the ravages of war, the Crawleys have been dealing with the equally powerful changing times. If you played a drinking game
centered just around how many times someone mentions "change," you would be as dead as O'Brien's cold, black heart.
Yes, the theme this season was change and it didn't just present itself; it was underlined and highlighted at every opportunity. Subtly, thy name has never been Downton Abbey
. Yet what else would a family like the Crawleys have been equally as worried about as the swinging era of the 1920s swept into view?
The world of Downton Abbey
is a world with a timestamp, as even the family itself can at times clearly see. No matter how firm Robert or Mr. Carson try to stick their feet in the sand and stay in one place, the tides of time will eventually come in. They can either move and change with the era or stay stuck in one place, buried in old rituals and routines the world is increasingly leaving behind.
The members of Downton haven't given up the old ways yet, not by a very long shot, but they are learning the important skill of adaptation.
The storyline revolving around Thomas' homosexuality has been one of the most riveting of the season, which makes it all the sweeter when Thomas gets to remain at Downton. What makes the storyline work is that it's both interesting from a dramatic and historic standpoint.
We knew of Thomas' orientation since the season 1, like much of the house, apparently, and yet it was very often kept as swept under the rug as Carson would prefer. By putting it on the table, the show got to explore the difficulties of being a gay man in 1920s England.
To our modern view, the idea of being jailed just because of sexual orientation is downright unthinkable. But this is what reality was like for many gay men and women of the time. By showing us what the real world complications were for someone like Thomas, the show gets to delve into the darker reality of a glittering time period.
People love Downton Abbey
for its glitz and glamour, and as a family the Crawleys are certainly easy on the eyes. But this season, the show has taken a special interest in the lives not lived in sitting rooms and dining areas, but in the lives of the downtrodden and ignored. Whether it's the Irish, unwed mothers or gay valets, the show has refocused from portraying a world war to portraying the smaller battles that were fought every day to combat prejudice and take us into the modern age.
On a totally shallow note, though, how cool is it to see flappers?! I love that they have to bring on a younger, more irresponsible family member so we can take a detour into a jazz club. I mean, it's not like you can imagine Mary or Edith getting her flapper on. Edith looks like she wants to put on extra layers as soon as they walk into that club. Like, "Will another hat protect me from this jazz music?" It's really cool to see a nod to some 1920s flair.Upstairs
Distant family relation Rose has come to stay with the Crawley family. You know Rose is bad news because she seems much too peppy. Mostly, this mysteriously appearing relative is just an excuse to get to see the seedy underbelly of 1920s London clubs, where a man could take his barely legal mistress to dance to jazz music. Also flappers!
I have no idea if we'll ever see Rose again, so I'm not going to bother to get at all invested in her married man drama. But seriously, Rose, fetch little headband. I approve.
Edith visits London with Rose and Matthew to see her editor. This editor has been crushing on her in a totally obvious way. So Edith does what we all do when we like someone: she stalks them.
This is the 1920s, so she has to ye olde Facebook stalk her editor, which apparently involves calling up someone else and getting them to do the stalking for her. Back in 1920, you had to outsource all your crush-stalking instead of spending hours doing it yourself. Harsh.
So Edith shows up at her editor's office totally pissed. Why? Because it turns out the flirty editor is actually super married. You know Edith is totally there to give him the cold shoulder because she shows up in her best ever outfit to do it. That is totally her "Take a look at what you're missing" outfit. Seriously, girl, well done.
However, because this is Downton Abbey
, there is a soap opera explanation for his marriage. You see, the married editor does actually like Edith a lot, but his wife has gone crazy and is in a mental institution. Because she's not mentally sound, this makes it impossible for him to divorce her. I guess at least he hasn't Jane Eyre
'd her in the attic? Progress! Edith really does have the absolute worst luck with men
In other news, Robert is still not in on the plan to actually make money with Downton's holdings. Make money? That's for poor people, we just have tea and wait for money to come to us! Also, let's invest with this nice Ponzi fellow because I can't see what could go wrong with that equation. Matthew finally blows a gasket from stupid and leaves poor Branson to clean up the pieces and rebuild poor Robert's ego.
Branson has been getting a lot of crappy jobs lately. He's finally part of the family, but now he's the member of the family that always gets the worst chores on the chore wheel.
This time around, he patiently explains to Robert about how we all have special gifts that make us unique and that Downton should put all these gifts to good use. It's like a speech you would give to a kindergartener who refuses to share, which is probably why it works like a charm.Downstairs
Everyone is preparing for the cricket game, most of all Mosley, who is terrible at everything but can certainly talk a good game about cricket. But before you think that Mosley can actually do something, don't worry because he's also terrible at cricket. You win some, you lose some ... unless you're Mosley and then you just lose some.
Meanwhile, Ethel gets shoved off the show again for the second time to go be with her son. With the help of Mrs. Bryant, she accepts a position nearby baby Charlie so she can eventually see her son. One could question why the show feels the need to bring Ethel back, give her the same dilemma as last season and then sweep her out of the household once more.
I would complain about it, but this storyline has been so repetitive and boring I'm just going to merrily wave goodbye to Ethel and hope the next bone of contention between Violet and Isobel is more original. Aren't there more flower shows for Isobel to ruin?
The big storyline of the episode, however, is obviously Thomas' uncovered gayness. Except for how everyone knew Thomas was gay the whole time. I think the most surprising part of the episode is how Carson totally has an active gaydar.
Also surprising is that Robert was getting hit on all the time by dudes in his school days. He's like, "Come on, good fellow; if you're this dashing, you're gonna get some fellows wanting to get up on this. That's just logic."
The whole storyline is really interesting and dramatic and earned, since it works to develop Thomas a little more outside his usual villainous pigeonhole. Rob James-Collier does a great job with all the material, really showing how Thomas becomes more and more downtrodden and destroyed as things turn against him.
My personal favorite scene is one that's short and filled with poignancy. Thomas sits outside his former enemy Mr. Bates' new love nest with Anna and looks on with envy. Because Mr. Bates has something Thomas imagines (possibly correctly) he will never be able to have: love. Or at the very least, a relationship he can take out into the daylight and one that no one will call foul.
O'Brien convinces Jimmy to make Mr. Carson revoke Thomas' letter of recommendation, essentially blacklisting him after 10 years of service. Why is O'Brien so insane this season? Especially since she has essentially already gotten him kicked out of the house. I don't feel like their earlier tiff in the season really explains all this nonsense.
Of course, Thomas surprisingly has everyone sort of rally to his side. Mr. Carson doesn't want to let him go without a letter, Mrs. Hughes doesn't think it's right and, surprisingly, he finds his staunchest defender in Mr. Bates.
Bates asks for dirt on O'Brien to make her change Jimmy's mind, and Thomas gives him three little words that change everything: "Her ladyship's soap." Will Anna figure out what that means, or will O'Brien's secret stay better hidden than Thomas'?
Mr. Bates tells Robert all is well. Robert, of course, is totally down with the gays, especially if they can play cricket. In fact, you get the distinct impression that Thomas isn't saved so much by human compassion as by his superior abilities on the cricket field.
Robert is totally all about this cricket match. I'm pretty sure he would set the Dowager Countess' hat on fire if it meant winning over the townies. Seriously, though, is it any surprise the people who understand the concept of a weekend are the ones that win every year?
So even though Alfred calls the police, Robert talks some sense into him and they decide to keep Thomas. Because it's the right thing to do ... but mostly for cricket!
Bates marvels that he literally just got his biggest enemy a promotion to under butler. On the field, Branson's peasant hands finally pay off when his ability to catch a ball wins the game for the house.The Mary and Matthew of It All
Matthew is still worried about his little general, so he goes into London to make sure he's not shooting blanks. Once there, he bumps into Mary at the fertility doctor. She refuses to tell him the specifics of what was wrong, because that's undignified, but it turns out she had a small operation and soon they should be well on their way to making babies.
So the rest of the episode, they're just really adorable with each other. Mary is supportive when it comes to Matthew's plan for the estate and even his cricket playing. The two play with baby Sybil, and it's a little hint of what a future Crawley family might look like.
He marvels that he didn't think he could love someone so much, and Mary's eyebrows are very happy and they kiss. It's a sweet moment to leave our favorite formerly star-crossed lovers.
What did you think of this week's Downton Abbey
? Are you excited for a Matthew/Mary baby? Did you like seeing flappers? What will happen with Edith and her editor? And what will it be like at Downton now that Carson has to deal with Thomas all the time as under butler? Sound off in the comments!Want to keep up with all the dirt upstairs and downstairs? Then do as
the Dowager Countess would do and add Downton Abbey to your very own
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(Image courtesy of PBS)