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Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Three

“It’s about Charles Carson and Elsie Hughes. And, not about this glorious house or the glorious people who’ve lived in it.”

For those of us who have lived through weddings, either our own or those in which we were deeply involved, we know that the days leading up to the event are fraught. Nerves take over and the slightest thing not going to plan is enough to send those involved over the edge. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are no different. From the wedding breakfast to the dress, everything is being second-guessed and everyone is getting involved.

Cora was the highlight of it all. Although people have been dropping hints like anvils, it was she who finally figured out the truth and forced Mrs. Hughes to say what it was she really wanted. Then, there was the wonderful scene downstairs when Cora apologized for her behavior and gave Mrs. Hughes the coat. Cora had overreacted, but I can imagine that coming in and seeing the cook and the housekeeper trying on your clothes would be a bit shocking.

Mary’s reaction in the drawing room was fascinating. In her mind, it is Carson’s wedding and Carson’s day and he should be married from the house. I’m not sure the fact that Mrs. Hughes would be involved had quite occurred to her.

Having said that, Mary was at her best this week, I just loved the whole scene in her room with Anna. First the letter from Branson that had obviously affected her and then Anna’s good news. Mary was genuinely excited at the news that Anna might be pregnant. She also lit into her mother in a way we haven’t seen in quite some time. Mary was right, and Cora needed to hear what she had to say, but it is unusual for Mary to step up quite so forcefully.

After her actions last week, I have rather gone off Edith. This week did not really endear her to me any more; although, like Mary, she was at her best. Edith has always been the most interesting and the most amiable when she is doing something, Anything other than nothing. Watching her get the magazine out was a good reminder that there is a good brain in that head. Not the best heart, but a very good brain.

It wouldn’t be an episode of Downton Abbey without a reminder that times are changing. This week’s reminder was quite pointed, but quite effective. Dryden Park is a shell, literally, of its former self. Sir Michael, played to perfection by Ronald Pickup, rattles around an enormous house, convinced that the days of ladies walking upstairs in diamonds and candlelight will one day return and that he must be ready.

What was most interesting about this entire scene, however, was Thomas. He uses the front door; he doesn’t treat Sir Michael with a great deal of deference; he all but tells his potential employer that his dream is dead. Gone are the days when a servant, especially one applying for a job, would have agreed to anything said and done. It’s a brilliant echo to Mrs. Hughes telling Cora she does not want her wedding in the house.

The montage of the night before the wedding and the final preparations was one of the best this show has done in a while. For the last time, Carson and Mrs. Hughes sleep in their single beds in rooms they have inhabited for decades. Those brief moments captured perfectly the sense that many brides and grooms have the night before they marry -- joy and excitement, with a tinge of sorrow over leaving home.

Tom Branson has been one of my favorite characters since he borrowed that book from Robert way back in season one. When he walked in the door, I squealed with delight. What a wonderful way to end.

I cry at weddings. I cry at homecomings. I cry when kids are just acting too cute for words. You guessed it. I was a mess at the end of this episode. It’s been a long time since I was so emotionally involved in this show. I’ve missed it.

Bits and Bobs:

— It’s been a while since I’ve had a historical issue to discuss. Spratt talks about the first commemorative stamp being for the Exhibition. This was, in fact, the first one in the UK. Both the US and Australia had issued commemoratives before this. The stamp was issued in 1924, so it would have already been a year or so old when this episode takes place.

— I have rather missed Lady Violet at her snarky best. She got in a few good digs this week, but the whole hospital story has still failed to engage me on any real level.

— Although I loved the scene at the end with all the kids hugging each other, I smiled when Sybbie hugged Marigold. Marigold held her arms behind her back and did not respond at all. Whether that was the young actress not doing as she was directed or if it was a conscious choice, it was a wonderful reminder of who Marigold is in that house.

— Spratt and Denker with a secret. Enough said.

— Yet another episode in which Mr. Molesley shines. Quietly, but he does.

— I’m a little worried about Robert's indigestion. I thought that had been resolved.

Well Said:

Mrs. Hughes: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the brink of anything. Except possibly the grave.”

Lady Violet: “I have a feeling Cora and I will be saying ‘hello’ rather less than ‘en garde’ in the next few weeks.”

Isobel: “I don’t want her to think I’m plotting against her.”
Robert: “Aren’t you?”
Isobel: “Yes, but I don’t want her to know.”

Pelham: “Best clothes and prettiest faces. Nobody cares about anything else.”

Lady Violet: “In my experience, second thoughts are vastly overrated.”

Lady Violet: “A peer in favor of reform is like a turkey in favor of Christmas.”

Mrs. Hughes: “M’lady, Mr. Carson would forgive you if you attacked him with a brick.”

Mr. Molesley: “Well, I believe that education is the gate that leads to any future worth having.”
Mr. Dawes: “Have you missed your vocation?”
Mr. Molesley: “I’ve missed everything, Mr. Dawes. But, Daisy doesn’t have to.”

Tom: “I had to go all the way to Boston to figure something out. And, that’s what I did.”
Mary: “Well, go on, what was it?”
Tom: “I learned that Downton is my home and that you are my family.”

ChrisB loves all things English, especially period drama.


  1. I feel the opposite about Mary and Edith. To me, Mary is and always was the heartless, selfish sister. The only time she was not was when she was with Matthew. She seems to know this, too. She told Matthew something along the lines of " I hope I will be your Mary, not Edith's Mary" alluding to Matthew bringing out the good person in her. Edith has empathy for others. I find Edith's story line much more engaging. Hopefully Mary is finally given a love interest that matches her's with Matthew. The best part of the show for me was when Mary was falling for and in love with Matthew. Her vulnerability was a nice contrast to her often frosty demeanor.

  2. And I doubt indigestion would just be indigestion unless this were a Woody Allen movie. Which will be very sad.

  3. I agree with Docnaz. I was quite shocked to see Edith described as vindictive even in an earlier review. I never perceived her as that, or as weak or self-pitying. To me, she was always a very kind and gentle character. The only time I recall her doing something close to evil was when she told on Mary about the thing with that Pamuk guy. That was not a nice a thing to do, true, but there was a whole lot of history behind that action of hers, which was actually simply a REaction. Edith has been overlooked and neglected her whole life, by her whole family and probably everyone else, too. Sybil and Mary have always been -both in their own ways- everybody's darlings, adored and thought highly of by everyone. Edith was the ugly duckling, not thought to be special or worth being encouraged or believed in by anyone, not even her own parents. And Mary took that even further by putting her down and deliberately hurting her whenever she had the chance. When Edith wrote that letter about the Pamuk incident she was simply lashing out after being treated like that once too often by Mary. And that's the thing, Edith was never mean just to be mean - very much unlike Mary. For how she was treated for such a long time by everyone and for all the bad luck she had with everything she put her heart into, I almost find that remarkable. It would have been so easy for her to turn into a mean person who hates everyone, but she didn't. She remained a very kind and caring person and I think that takes not only a great kindness but also a lot of strength. Mary, on the other hand, is and always have been arrogant, selfish and heartless despite the privileged position she always was in (in the sense of her standing in other people's eyes). It should have been easy for her to show some kindness to her -in that way- less privileged sister. That she didn't, that she kept metaphorically kicking someone who had hit rock bottom already shows what kind of person she really is. Mary choses few people who she favours and indeed is kind to (although still in her own selfish way, doing for them what she thinks is best, not necessarily considering what they want; but you gotta give her credit for meaning well). Everyone else, she treats indifferently at best - or downright crappy. I also agree that she knows she's not really a good person, not on her own at least. After Matthew's death she said something along the lines of: the only time she was actually good was when she was with him. That pretty much hit home for me for her character.


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