Downton Abbey Season 6, Episode 3

January 19, 2016 @ 9:41 pm | Filed under:

Downton Abbey Season 6 Episode 3

Well, I didn’t think I was going to have time to do Downton recaps this season—I mean, I don’t have time; it’s crazy how much I don’t have time for it. But I watched episode 3 on the treadmill this evening and doggone it, I miss talking about it with you guys. I thought I’d see if I could knock out a quick comment on each major plotline—no frills, no photos, no direct quotes, because that’s what turns a recap into a nine-hour endeavor. (No exaggeration.) Sound all right?

Spoilers below, obviously. 🙂


Let’s see, where to begin. I’ll focus mainly on this week’s episode (argh, here I go already), but we’ve got to chat about the whole Drewe of Yew Tree Farm situation. Or maybe we don’t. I’m too irritated by that whole hamhanded series of events. My heart breaks to think of the family leaving the farm they and their forefathers have nurtured “since before Waterloo.” The wrenching resolution of that storyline illustrates one of the dominant themes of this season: the question of agency. Who has it, and who doesn’t. The difference between doing what you want to do and what you must—and what kind of must it is. Duty? Desperation? Social roles? Lack of options? Sometimes the “want” and the “must” overlap, but not often, so far this season.

Mrs. Drewe wants Marigold back (wants not to have had to give her up at all), but she has no agency, no say in the matter. Mr. Drewe wants conflicting things: to keep his farm; to keep his promises; to protect his wife’s mental health; to take care of his family. The farm, which is part of his being at the cellular level, is the thing that must be sacrificed. He started this chain of events in motion by agreeing to raise Marigold, and then by giving her back to Edith, and he’s doing what he sees as his duty by handing in the lease and relocating his family, to remove Mrs. Drewe from Marigold’s vicinity. And…as a plotline, I think this stinks. It’s one of those places where I’m just yelling at Julian Fellowes: “Write it differently! Come on!”


Also out on his ear. Zero agency. New estate owner, new plans, old story. Of course it all seemed too coincidental last week—dear old Mr. Mason is going to need a new farm, and why look, there just happens to be a vacancy at Yew Tree. I made the same leap Daisy did, and this week I’m scratching my head, wondering why Cora hinted about “an idea” (strongly suggesting she was picturing Mr. Mason being able to take over for the Drewes) but is now being so cagey about it. Daisy, positively quivering with agency, is determined to maneuver her father-in-law into that gap whether Cora likes it or not. This is a pretty interesting turn of events, actually—Cora being all “oh, I don’t know, I wouldn’t get your hopes up” about it and Daisy just barreling ahead and announcing it to the world like it’s a done deal. “I want to get things settled,” she insists, when Molesley chides her for counting her chickens before they’re hatched. Daisy’s ready to start cracking open some shells. Her impetuous efforts to help Mr. Mason at the neighbor’s auction in Ep. 1 backfired rather badly, but it is to be hoped she’s more successful this time. I mean, that perfectly nice farm is wide open now, SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM, CORA? And how come this hasn’t occurred to anyone else? Robert makes such a convincing worry face but I’m not sure he’s had an original thought in a decade.


Second most infuriating storyline. Robert and Carson have accepted that a staff reduction is inevitable, but why fire someone when you can freeze him out? Thomas is openly, deliberately made to feel redundant at every turn. Carson seems to despise him. Honestly, this business seems out of character for Carson. He’s usually more direct. If you’re going to sack him, sack him already.

So Thomas goes on another job interview and I have to say, there was a moment in this scene that choked me up. The vast, empty house; the lonely old man. For a moment I thought Thomas was going to find a congenial and fulfilling position here: the chance to be important to someone, to be needed and useful. But the scene turned. The house is a tomb. Sir Michael is a ghost. Thomas, despite a dearth of other options, walks away from the opportunity. He won’t be the guy holding the tattered coattails of the 19th century as it staggers into the sunset, thirty years late. Nor is he eager to shift from being an under-utilized under-butler to the jack of all trades, master of none (no staff, that is) that is what Sir Michael’s servant will have to be.

What will become of him? I find I’m more interested in learning his fate than almost anyone else’s—with, I think, one exception. Another underdog, of course. But we’re coming to her.


War! Bloodshed! Venom! Hats with feathers perched at indignant angles! For three episodes, we’ve watched Violet and Isobel duke it out over the question of the Great Hospital Takeover. Good for the village, or bad for the village? Here again, of course, we’re grappling with the question of progress: is change a force for good, or for destruction? Everyone has an opinion except Robert, who isn’t allowed more than two opinions a season and he’s already spent one on the matter of where Carson and Hughes should have their wedding reception. (He was wrong, of course.) I expect he needs to save his other Season Six opinion for naming a new dog. Surely he’ll have a new dog to name soon, no?

But back to the hospital. Poor Violet, losing her allies one by one. Now even Dr. Clarkson is wavering. Isobel was pretty hard on him this week, and now he’s rethinking his position. Maybe a merger isn’t a terrible fate for the village. It’s interesting that in none of these barbed conversations has the subject of Sybil’s fate come up—how if the family had listened to Clarkson instead of the Important City Doctors, she might still be alive. I would have expected Cora to be more suspicious of the Royal Yorkshire.

One thing is certain: Cora has elbowed her way into this fight (as I certainly hoped she would), and Violet’s not going to forget that in a hurry.


This got ten seconds of screen time and had me convinced a heart attack was imminent and would either delay the wedding or interrupt it. But no, he just needed to burp. Carry on.


Mrs. Denker is gleeful to have some dirt on Spratt—his no-good nephew escaped from prison and Spratt helped him on his way. She covers for him when the constable makes inquiries, and Spratt knows it’ll cost him, sooner or later.


…didn’t have much to do this week. Except make faces about Edith and be dressed down by her mother over the wedding plans, which I enjoyed. Cora calls her out for “bullying” Carson and Mrs. Hughes into having the reception in the Great Hall. Mary can’t fathom a situation in which her opinion isn’t the correct one (she’s more like her grandmother all the time) and is baffled—and a little insulted—by the suggestion that she might not understand all the nuances of a situation.

Then she completely misguesses the way her mother will feel about having Anna and Mrs. Patmore rummage through Cora’s closet in search of an evening coat for the bride-to-be. Cora, bursting in upon the unexpected trio in her bedroom, behaves very badly indeed, addressing them coldly and severely. I’m glad she had the face to apologize later.


This is who I really want to talk about. I can never resist a good “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” I cheered when she sacked the heinous editor; I crossed my fingers when she agreed to have a drink with Bertie; and I positively beamed when they hustled all night to put the magazine together. Come on, Edith. Unlike so many of the people around you, you have opportunity. You have options. You have a magazine, for Pete’s sake. And a flat in London! You’re a Muriel Spark character waiting to happen and I for one can’t wait.


They did it. Whew. I really wasn’t sure it was going to be allowed to happen.


Tom! I have nothing snarky to say. His return brings me one hundred percent delight, even his hokey ripped-from-the-Wizard-of-Oz line about having to go all the way to Boston to learn that Downton was his home.

Oooh, but does this mean Mary will have to share estate-running duties again? Or will Tom find something else to do?

As always, there’s so much more I could say. But I’m already late for the next thing. Chat away, my lovelies. Let’s pick it apart!

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Julie says:

    Oh your glorious writing: “Hats with feathers perched at indignant angles!”

    Robert has indigestion: this is an inkling of the medical care he will need that will put us in the center of the quandary about what solution is right for the hospital. Or it will be a child.

    Tom + Mary = marriage?

    I love Daisy and I loved (last episode) Mrs. Patmore’s delicate conversation with Carson!

    Your comments about agency are wonderful, spot on! Thank you. I keep thinking of EM Forster’s Room with a View—the need to end the dark ages and what that looks like—the change from grand houses of servitude and pomposity to regular folk living alongside one another. I thought it a lovely change of pace when Mrs. Hughes invited the great family to her ordinary wedding, expecting them to come even. It was such a wonderful role reversal!

    Great writing and analysis as always my dear Melissa!

  2. sarah says:

    Like I said on Facebook, it is going to be so much fun watching my American friends’ responses to this season, their anticipations and guesses, since I know what happens. I am biting my tongue not to answer some of your thoughts here. 🙂 Especially regarding Thomas, who was by far my favourite character this season.

    Your writing is absolutely gorgeous by the way – of course.

  3. monica says:

    i actually was watching this week thinking “I wish Lissa was still doing her Downton wrap ups” and then a gift descended in my blog feed. It is so refreshing to see Edith with something to DO instead of sit around and whine and pine.

    I had heard last season thought of Tom and Mary getting together and I didnt believe it would happpen. But it is getting too late in the season for them to introduce a new love interest and have time for developing that relationship and having some kind of resolve by the end of the series. So now maybe Mary and Tom will happen. As my husband pointed out, that would really show that the world has gone upside down since the beginning of the show. The ex-chauffer and the inheritor of the manor. But can love get Mary down from her pedastal?

    I think that indigestion is forshadowing something. Sickness or even death? Maybe thats why they havent bothered with getting a new dog?

    I think there is still something that will come about from Thomas’ visit to the run down manor house. The first house he visited showed how he is going to be descriminated against for his sexuality and for how his current position is almost extinct. So they didnt really need to spend time on another manor house showing the same decline of the aristocracy. I think it is a set up for him to go back there when he gets sacked at Downton or for him to have a change of heart. They made that old man entirely too likable to just throw away after putting time into it.

    My hope is that everyone has a happy ending by the end of the series:
    Lord Grantham= new dog and not dying
    Isobel and Lady Violet= peace in their friendship (I miss that!) and equilibrium between progress and local ownership
    Daisy= passing exams and saving Mr. Mason
    Thomas= a place where he has respect and finds some healing from his wounds
    Mary= love
    Tom= home
    Edith= love and finding her place

    Its a tall order, Mr. Fellows. But i think you can do it.

  4. Amy says:

    I felt like I was on a bullet train ride through this episode. What, like 3 minutes on the wedding? Mr. and Mrs. Carson deserved better.

    And the whole kidnap Marigold thing just seemed…I don’t know…cliche or something. Too much going on for that to just be written so “simply.” I for one, as an adoptee, am SO happy that Edith has her OWN CHILD back, even though it causes Mrs. Drewe pain. It’s not her child! Sorry for the soapbox, I’m just tired of everyone feeling sorry for Mrs. Drewe but not rejoicing that mother and child are reunited. Was excited to see Edith come into her own with the magazine, too!

    I know they only have so many episodes left to wrap up everything, but I hope they can give good time to the weighty topics.

    I’m coming to really like Thomas. I’m glad they are giving him some depth.

  5. Krista says:

    You have hit it right on Melissa. I am so with you about the Drewes. I feel so badly for both of them. Mr. Fellowes has the agency, and needs to re-think his power. I am sorry to say that I do not sympathize with Mr. Barrows. He seems a whiner and generally disagreeable young man.

  6. Karen Edmisten says:

    You nailed all my thoughts, almost exactly, esp. re. the Drewe farm (write it differently, indeed, Fellowes!) and Thomas. I had the same feeling — that Thomas was going to find just the right place at this point in his life, but then he couldn’t escape fast enough. Hmmm. Where will Thomas end up? I am invested.

    Daisy, oh, Daisy! Stop making me squirm!

    Mary, oh, Mary, exert a wee bit of effort and turn around far enough to talk to your mother the next time the servants are in her room trying on her clothes. Cora just needed to be brought up to speed, but, oh, what work that would have been!

    I love what’s happening with Edith — had hoped she would start running the magazine last season, so I’m glad to see it happening, and I loved that her new friend tagged along. I would love to see a happy ending for her, and would love for her to finally tell Mary to shut it about Marigold since Marigold is indeed her child to whom she is deeply attached. This may be a difficult concept for Mary, but she needs to grapple with it.

    I’m delighted, too, that Tom is back, despite the Oz-ian line. 🙂 (The first episode of the season, my girls said, “Where’s Branson?? If there’s no Branson, there’s no point.”)

    I do *not* see Tom and Mary together, as some people predict or wish. No, no, no. That would be an alternate universe for me. Upton Abbey, or Downton Sixby, or something, but not the right ending for Wonderful Branson. (I think I know what’s in store for Mary, but I won’t say anything.)

    The one other thing that I want to scream “Write it differently!” about is the Anna/Bates thing. For the love of communication, can you just talk to your husband, woman? He begs you weekly to do so, and you keep simpering that he’s just too fragile to handle the truth. Puh-leeze. Tell him all the stuff.

  7. Julie says:

    “The one other thing that I want to scream “Write it differently!” about is the Anna/Bates thing. For the love of communication, can you just talk to your husband, woman? He begs you weekly to do so, and you keep simpering that he’s just too fragile to handle the truth. Puh-leeze. Tell him all the stuff.”

    Karen, YES! Thank you. I am so bored by Anna and Bates’ need for secrecy from each other. Such a strange love that never communicates! I really want them to be happy, of course, but I am sick of introducing predicaments that mean they aren’t a team. Great point! Thank you.

  8. Jamie says:

    Hurray, a new recap! Recently I went back and reread an old one just because I wished you’d write more of them. It’s your voice that makes the recaps — no need for pictures and quotes!

    PS totally unrelated, have you ever posted about LM Montgomery’s Silver Bush books?

  9. KT says:

    So glad to see other people enjoying this show as much as I do. I’m truly going to miss it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be buying the season on DVD when it comes out in a few days and binge-watching it. I agree that the indigestion may be foreshadowing a far worse event and am holding my breath in fear that Fellowes is going to wrap things up with his death to symbolize the death of the lifestyle. Talk about crying buckets.

    Oh, and I think I did cry when Tom came back. That I truly did not expect. I’m kind of hoping for a Tom-Mary union, too. That would be somehow fitting.

  10. Jacki says:

    No, no, no–definitely no romance for Tom and Mary! It’s almost incestuous. She even called him her brother. I like them just fine the way they are.

    I too was disappointed in the brevity of the Carson wedding. So glad it finally happened though! I thought it was out of character for Carson to suggest they continue to use her maiden name at work. Seems inconsistent with the times and his very traditional values. And honestly, it wouldn’t be that confusing as they don’t share duties. (As an aside, check out “Mrs. Hughes” in real life. Biggest change from character appearance of anyone on the show!) Oh and I guess I’m not clued in, because who knew Mrs. Hughes’s first name was Elsie?!

  11. Tom Edmisten says:

    Hey! Hey! Muriel Spark…wrote The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the movie version of which starred…wait for it…Maggie Smith! I think I’ve earned a cookie. Break into your stash of Peppermint Jo-Jos and send me one.

  12. GInger says:

    I made my way here from RAR. I am already fond of your blog. Such enjoyment….and then I read that you posted about DA, especially when you (we) don’t have time. That made me laugh. I love that show.

    Anyway, I think that Barrow is going to be made Butler by the last episode. Remember when Robert chastised him for saying something at the luncheon and exposed the house maid turned upper room guest? Remember he didn’t finish his last sentence to him “That will help you when you…..” and then the sentence died off.

    So I think that we are seeing a man being broken, and remade into someone “kind.” Wouldn’t that be a happy ending for him?

    Anyway, I don’t know anyone that is watching it and wants to spend any time writing about it in my homeschool circle. Glad I found you.