Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Four

“Don’t please us. Please yourself.”

That wasn’t a very subtle episode, was it?

The ongoing theme of Downton Abbey is the changing times. Who better to represent that change than Gwen? We learn that she moved from her secretarial job into government, married well, and now is involved in a school for disadvantaged women who want an education. Good for her.

Leave it Thomas to stir up trouble. Of course, the whole thing backfires on him and the family is pleased for Gwen. Yet, Gwen is certainly the diplomat. She gives all the credit for everything she has become to Sybil. While Sybil certainly deserves some credit, she doesn’t deserve all of it. Yet, by deflecting the attention from herself, and by allowing the family to remember just how wonderful Sybil was, Gwen shows us just why she has achieved what she has -- education or not.

Not unlike Gwen, Henry Talbot is self-made as well. Nowhere near the earldom, he has had to make his own way in the world. He has. I do like his chemistry with Mary and I like how they spar off each other. One thought. How will Mary allow herself to care about a man who drives a car very fast for a living. It is, after all, how her first husband died. Their flirting is very adult, which only makes sense when one realizes that they are both in their thirties. It makes a welcome change from Mary’s previous flirtations.

Edith calls Tom the peacekeeper and he is. It is he who is always trying to keep people from arguing and it is he who, although he has come back, is looking for the most sensible way to live his life in and around the estate. I smiled when he was telling Mary about his views on capitalism. Quite a change from the fiery socialist we met all those years ago.

Poor Thomas. He has the chance to be butler for a week. Rather than take advantage of the opportunity, he manages to irritate everyone in the house. Neither Carson nor Robert have made an secret of the fact that they want him to go. He could have used this week to change both their minds. Instead, he just solidified what they were already feeling.

The rest of this episode felt like one long set-up for the rest of the season/series. Miss Baxter is finally getting something to do other than be nice to everyone. I’m interested to see where her story is going. I do like her friendship with Molesley and I liked the way that Thomas spoke to her. He can be incredibly sensitive and intuitive. I just wish he let that side of him out more.

It now looks as though Anna might carry a baby to term. I hope so. This story gave us the opportunity to see both sides of Mary. On the one hand, we have the spoiled girl. I laughed at the fact that she will allow Bates to make two trips to carry the luggage. It never occurred to her to carry one bag herself. On the other hand, however, she drops everything to take her maid to London so that Anna has a shot at keeping the baby. I’m not sure she would do the same for Edith. Once again, however, we had a very funny instance of how society is changing. Yes, the doctor will make a call at dawn, but not because he feels he must for the daughter of an earl. The inconvenience will be reflected in his bill.

There appeared to be some foreshadowing at the end of the episode. Rosamund and Robert talking about funerals made me very, very nervous. I do hope everyone gets through to the end.

Bits and Bobs:

-- Allen Leech is a welcome return to the opening credits.

-- The hospital fight just gets more convoluted and involves more and more people. It’s been a while since I was so apathetic about something happening on this show. Does anyone care?

-- Similarly, Daisy and the whole thing with the farm has gone too far. I rather wish that Fellowes had chosen to let her take on the Crawleys. It would have been much more fun to watch than Robert saving the day.

-- I was glad to see Gwen again. Her friendship with Sybil back in the first season was one of my favorite stories of the entire series.

-- Bates’ face when Anna tells him the news was a joy to see.

-- The relief everyone felt at being able to call Mrs. Carson Mrs. Hughes was one of the most bizarre things this show has ever done. Why is is so difficult? And, how disrespectful to a woman who has served them well for decades.

Well Said:

Lady Violet: “What sort of Talbot is he?”
Lady Shackleton: “Shrewsbury, but he’s nowhere near the earldom. About forty men would have to drop dead.”
Lady Violet: “Well, nothing is impossible.”

Lady Violet: “Mary needs more than a handsome smile and a hand on the gear stick.”
Goodness! That may be the raciest (pun intended) comment ever made on this show.

Edith: “I suppose Cousin Isobel is entitled to put up an argument.”
Lady Violet: “Of course she is. She’s just not entitled to win it.”

Thomas: “You are stronger than you think. And, you’re wrong about me. I mind what people say.”

Henry: “Aren’t you rather at a loose end?”
Mary: “I hope this means you’re boiling up to make a pass before we’re done.”
Henry: “Probably. But, will you accept?”
Mary: “No. But, I shall enjoy the process enormously.”

ChrisB loves all things English, especially period drama.

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