Bates is FREE! After a season in prison, which was about half a season too long, Bates is finally released and his lovely wife Anna is there to take him home. He is welcomed with great warmth from the servants at Downton except Thomas, who will lose his position as Lord Grantham’s valet now that Bates has returned. Robert is so happy to see Bates back at Downton that he tells him to take some time off, and promises Bates and Anna a cottage to live in.
Robert is still struggling with sharing control of Downton Abbey, especially in light of Matthew’s ideas to make Downton self-sufficient. Robert is feeling insulted at every turn, and he is not the only one. During a meeting with Robert and Matthew and Murray, the estate manager Jarvis takes umbrage at Matthew’s usage of the word “waste” in reference to the way the estate has been run. Jarvis immediately jumps to the conclusion that he is being accused of corruption, and quits on the spot. Even Robert can’t “old chap” him out of it. After a eloquent talking to by Tom, Robert slowly comes to see Matthew’s points, and it seems Downton is on the way to standing on her own feet.
Edith’s life prospects seem to be improving with a job as a columnist for a London paper (The Sketch), complete with an editor (Mr. Gregson) who likes her in more than a professional way. Few members of the family support Ethel in this job venture; Robert thinks she’s being used for her title and Violet thinks it’s a good idea since “Edith is not getting any younger. Perhaps she’s not cut out for domestic life.” Edith manages to put that negativity aside and takes the job, to her new boss’s great pleasure. Edith has learned a few tricks with her newfound independence and does the equivalent of a google search on the charming Mr. Gregson, finding out that he is married. Edith visits him at the paper and tells him that she has learned that he is married and tries to resign because of his obvious attraction to and flirtation with her. He explains that his wife has been in an asylum for many years, and that he cannot divorce her because she is not legally mentally fit enough to participate in a divorce.
Violet once again pushes in where she isn’t wanted by suggesting that Ethel would be happier if she lived elsewhere; Isobel grudgingly agrees, seeing that Ethel’s history is well known in the village, and if she were truly to have a fresh start, she’d need to move. Violet, being Violet, places an ad in a ladies’ magazine advertising Ethel as a cook looking for a job. While that does rankle Isobel’s feathers to a somewhat satisfactory degree (I do so love the looks those two throw at each other!), Isobel grudgingly turns the response letters over to Ethel for her to peruse. The only one Ethel seems to be interested in is a household near where her son Charlie is living with his grandparents, but she fears taking the position for fear of the grandparents’ reactions. For all of you who remember the hostility and arrogance of the grandfather, it is easy to see Ethel’s point. Isobel feels the matter settled, but since Violet is the one stirring the pot, Isobel is completely wrong. Isobel and Ethel are invited over to Violet’s house, where they meet Charlie’s grandmother, Mrs. Bryant. Mrs. Bryant encourages Ethel to take the job near to them, and she will be able to see Charlie again. Finally Ethel has a somewhat happy ending!
O’Brien’s treatment of Thomas goes from bad to worse, completing her transformation from a nuisance to a malignancy. She makes Thomas believe that Jimmy is “funny” and attracted to Thomas, so much so that Thomas actually acts on those beliefs and creeps into Jimmy’s room while Jimmy’s asleep and kisses him. I don’t know about you, but I was watching the scene yelling at Thomas not to do it, but he hears about as well as horror movie characters, and did it anyway.
It was not a Sleeping Beauty moment for Jimmy, who awoke furious, just as Alfred was poking his head into the room. There was much shouting and stomping about, and when shamed Thomas was alone in the hallway realizing the enormity of what he’d done, Mr. Carson shows up in his robe, bellowing about the furor. Thomas manages to escape with the excuse that Jimmy had had a nightmare (boy, did he!). In the morning, it’s obvious to everyone (even Moseley) that something happened the night before, because Thomas, Jimmy, and Alfred are acting like teenagers who burned the house down and are waiting for their parents to find out. O’Brien, in all of her helpy helpfulness, convinces Alfred to tell Carson, and then Jimmy to tell Carson that he wants Thomas punished by not getting a good reference when he’s fired, or Jimmy will call the police on Thomas (essentially blackmailing Carson). We all make the discovery that everyone in house knew of Thomas’, er, proclivities; and are forced to hear of the many advances made to Robert at his all boys’ school.
Thomas is saved by an unlikely alliance – Mr. Bates. Bates is angry at the railroading that Thomas is getting, and gets O’Brien to get Jimmy to tell Carson he’s changed his mind concerning Thomas’ references. Mr. Bates persuades O’Brien by whispering a phrase Thomas told him to use in O’Brien’s ear. Even though Bates does not know what it means, we do. The phrase is “her ladyship’s soap”, and it is a reference to O’Brien causing Cora to slip and fall after her bath, causing a miscarriage of a son, all because O’Brien was in a snit and left a bar of soap on the floor deliberately. This was all from the first season, in case you’re a late joiner to the world of Downton.
Violet’s great-niece came to visit, ostensibly because the girl hates London, but really because the eighteen-year-old Rose loves London and it’s freedoms far too much. Edith was the first to catch on that Rose was a handful, and after Rose invites herself along to London with Edith, we find out why she was shipped off to a great-aunt in the country. Rose is the exact opposite of the elegant Ladies of Downton; she prefers to spend her days canoodling with married men and dancing at jazz clubs. She is followed to said jazz club by Lady Rosamund, Edith, and Matthew; it’s really too bad that Carson was not with them. Who knows, he might have gotten on stage and sang! When Rose is returned to Downton, Violet wheedles the story out of her daughter and Rose is banished to Scotland during the off season with her most boring relative. The horror!
Lastly we are treated to the annual cricket match between the house of Downton and the village. Robert is very invested in the match, apparently because the house has not won in several years. He manages to bully Tom into playing, even though Tom keeps telling him that he’s never played. During a break in the match, Tom tells Cora that he’d like to live on the Downton property while Sybil is little, making Cora happier than she’s been in ages. Robert moves Jimmy to a higher position in the household, then drops the bomb that Thomas will be staying. Heh. Matthew spent an afternoon teaching Tom how to play cricket, but all Tom has to do is catch the ball to win the match and lead the house to victory over the village. Everyone is dressed beautifully in cream, making for a lovely scene.
Did you notice that the Crawley women were dressed in some lovely lavender shades? Even Robert had a lavender pocket square at one point. The switch to lavender from black was a standard color change for families in mourning; they’d wear black, then shades of purple and green, then their regular wardrobes.
Next week is the final episode of the season – you don’t want to miss it!