You know who would’ve loved the 60s? Lady Sybil, that’s who. How do I know? Well, she likes mud, as evidenced by her willingness to trudge through mud in order to help the underdog. She has terrible fashion sense. And she loves a good demonstration. In fact, that’s where we meet her at the start of episode 6.
Spoilers below the cut!
She’s listening to some dude talking about women’s rights. Thankfully, no one starts burning corsets! But things do get a bit incendiary, metaphorically speaking. Branson, the chauffeur, and Isobel, who’s a bit of a troublemaker herself, suggest that she go home, what with people about to get knocked about and such. But Lady Sybil just finds it all the more exciting. And when the most exciting thing that’s happened in your life is that your horse lost his shoe, really, can you blame her? By the way, Lady Sybil, kudos on not once falling to the temptation to shout, A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!
Branson whisks her away and she starts talking politics again. At no point does she seem to notice how hot Branson is. Sybil, dear, you’re in a car, with a young, good-looking stud, and never once does the thought of jumping on his bone, I mean, BONES, cross your mind? Oh, yes, I almost forgot. They talk about politics. That’s the point of that scene. Branson disapproves of the Earl, but adds that he is a good man and a decent employer. To which Sybil replies, “Spoken like a true politician”. Which is not as good as “Take off your shirt, stat, and hold me”, which is what I would’ve said.
We cut to Carson reading a letter, over the din of Mrs. Patmore’s yelling at Daisy once more. Mrs. Patmore, it turns out, has cataracts and bullying Daisy helps her see better. Carson looks very worried, as well he should be. Letters are always bad news on this show. Hence the invention of the singing telegram. Although setting the sinking of the Lusitania to music does sound rather tasteless. What rhymes with “Archduke Franz Ferdinand”?
Downstairs, William accidentally bumps into Thomas, making him spill some tea on himself. When he starts yelling at William, Bates defends him and Thomas gives him the hairy eyeball. In front of everyone, Bates makes a veiled reference to his stealing and Thomas dares him to tell. I don’t know why Bates brought it up, if he wasn’t going to do anything about it. One of the big mysteries of the show is why he keeps refusing to get Thomas out of the way. Anyway, it is ON, like Donkey Kong.
Mr. Carson is so distracted by the contents of the letter that he never rang the dressing gong. Those of us who grew up in the 70s wonder how Chuck Barris snuck into Downton, and whether Lady Violet is doing her singing wine glass act. Anyway, apparently, this is a big faux pas. Forgetting to ring the gong, that is, not Lady Violet’s rendition of Blue Danube on a set of burgundy glasses.
While Bates nobly refuses to rat out Thomas, he does spill the beans on Lady Sybil’s attendance at the Liberal rally. The Earl blames Branson. By the way, how is it that I never noticed that the Earl is a veritable silver fox in his coat and tails? I wonder if what’s going through Bates’ mind is anything along the lines of, “Take off your jacket, stat, and hold me”? I can smell the Earl’s cologne from here.
Over dinner, the Earl brings up Lady Sybil’s presence at the Liberal candidate’s speech. She admits she was there and then the Earl blows up! He blames Branson. Lady Cora stands up for Branson, saying that she asked him to take Sybil because she wanted to go canvassing. Lady Violet is appalled and aghast and when Lady Mary remarks that Sybil is entitled to her opinions, she retorts, “Not until she gets married, then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.” She says it so convincingly, her late husband’s ghost must be whispering it in her ear. She then asks Lady Sybil if she will still be presented, “You can’t curtsy to the Queen in June, when you’ve been arrested in May!” Well, I don’t see why not, just as long as no one tweets about it. What you CAN’T do is tweet a picture of yourself in your tighty-whiteys. The Earl puts his foot down and says that Lady Sybil is to stay home and work on her needlepoint instead of risking her life at rallies.
Downstairs, Bates feels guilty about outing Lady Sybil and ruining everyone’s dinner. Thomas, of course, rubs it in. Bates tells Anna that Thomas is probably afraid that he’ll tell Mr. Carson about the wine. But he won’t. He doesn’t want anyone to lose his job because of him, not even Thomas.
This is the “spill the beans” episode, for Carson approaches Cora to tell her about the ugly rumor going around London about Lady Mary and the late Mr. Pamuk. Cora asks to read the letter and when Carson mentions that he tried to tell the Earl, she says, “Please leave his Lordship to me”. I wish she’d leave him to me! Hmm.
Of course, O’Brien and Thomas finally hit upon the idea of blaming Bates for the missing wine. They enlist Daisy, who will do anything for Thomas, since her gaydar is way off. And Bates still refuses to stand up for himself. Bates, there is noble, and then there’s being a schmuck. When Carson inquires about it, he digs his own hole deeper, by asking if this has anything to do with the missing wine in the cellar.
The Earl apologizes to Cora for losing his temper at dinner. To which she replies, “The next time you want to treat me like a naughty schoolgirl, you might do it in private, not in front of the servants.” Cora, must you make me blush? But what should ruin the mood, but the topic of Mary once again? The Earl finally notices that no one ever seems to talk about Edith. It’s only taken 6 episodes! And am I crazy or does Lady Edith bear a slight resemblance to Jan Brady?
The next day, Sir Anthony Strallan fortuitously appears to ask Mary out on a spin in his open Rolls Royce. Umm, I actually don’t think he’s so bad… Good Lord, what did I just say?! Excuse my pheromones. It must be Spring. Anyway, just as soon as one prospect pops up, Mary manages to run him off in her own inimitably icy way. Always willing to take her sister’s scraps, Lady Edith pipes up that she is totally free! And off they go into the English countryside!
Lady Mary befriends William, in a way, when he helps her with her horse and she laughs at the idea that he is bettering himself by being a footman. Geez, Lady Mary, with all the horse manure around, I’d be more careful about putting my foot in my mouth!
After having spent the first 5 episodes in the background, in unflattering culottes, Lady Sybil will not be relegated to it again. She makes up a story about needing to go to a charity meeting, so that she can ask the Earl if Branson can drive her. “Why must all your causes be steeped in gloom?!” he asks. Your Lordship, just be thankful she’s not Goth or into cutting herself. Or into chopping men’s penises like your eldest Mary, aka the Ginsu Geisha.
And then who should come a-visiting but Matthew. He keeps coming back so that Mary can find new ways of kicking him to the curb. That M embroidered unto his handkerchiefs must stand for Masochist. Sure enough, when Mary mentions that she likes a good argument, he observes that if she really does like an argument, they should see more of each other. Mary’s eyes gleam with the prospect of another victim. Keep this up, Mary, and we’ll have to hide all the knives. There’s a Second World War coming up in 25 years and British men are going to need their penises or there won’t be enough troops.
Another letter has arrived with rumors about Mary and this time, it’s addressed to Lady Violet. Man, is Dame Maggie Smith fabulous at dignified conniption fits! I love how she chortles when she finds out that the ugly rumors are true, “I didn’t know dissolution was already upon us!” I am so totally going to steal this line the next time I see someone floss on the subway. She waves Cora away at her “attempts to justify this”. But Cora refuses to disown her daughter and leaves, saying, “Good day!” I say Good day, Sir!! As I suspected, Cora is a Foghorn Leghorn fan.
Bates and Anna have a little tête-à-tête about the ugly rumors about him. Anna tries to get him to man up, but it’s too late. Instead of being turned off by the martyr act, Anna looks totally intrigued.
But thankfully, William’s comment about his family’s honesty knocks some sense into Daisy. Remorseful, she owns up to Carson that she was misled into lying for a friend. Carson gathers the usual suspects in his office. And not only do O’Brien and Thomas backpedal, after they leave, Bates confesses that he USED to be a drunkard and was arrested for theft in the past. Everyone is shocked.
Lady Sybil misleads Branson and goes to a rally instead, where she gets knocked on her head. Matthew comes to the rescue and punches the culprit on the chin. He and Branson carry her to the Crawleys’, where Isobel attends to her. When she comes to, she gives Matthew the googly eyes. And Mary, who’s been called to help, notices. They take her back to Downton where Earl Grantham reads her the riot act. For whatever reason, this fight between Lady Sybil and her father is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. Probably because I grew up watching telenovelas. Or maybe it’s my melodramatic Latin blood. Anyway, Lady Sybil has quickly become my favorite character, since she proves that you can be both good AND interesting. When the Earl threatens to fire Branson, she threatens to run away! Actually, I’d like to see that. Will she run away with Branson and run with Emma Goldman? Maybe she’ll discover free love and finally get it on with her hottie chauffeur. Seriously, what a waste of a perfectly gorgeous man, Sybil!
The episode with Sybil means that Matthew has another excuse to court Lady Mary. They kiss over a glass of wine. What’s more, he asks her to marry him! Mary tells Cora, and even goes so far as to confess that she might even be in love with him. He gives you an endless number of chances to emasculate him, what’s not to love? But, Mary being Mary, she has to complicate EVERYTHING.
She wants to think it over and, of course, she will tell him about Pamuk. Yes, Mary, there’s nothing like telling your current man about your past lovers. They love the thought of another man in bed with you, even if he is dead.
What fresh hell will Mary think of next to dispatch with another suitor? I dare not say. And until then, I say, well, yes, Good day!