SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT!!
Down in the servants’ hall, Carson is handing out letters. Even Thomas gets a letter. Who could be writing to him? Maybe it’s a correspondence course on being a better villain. By the way, Thomas has the chutzpah to smoke indoors. He holds the ciggie in the middle of his mouth as if it were a pacifier. Ah, for the days when men knew how to place their nicotine sticks off to the side and look soulfully into the camera like the bad boys that they were! The only person who goes letterless is Anna. When she asks, Carson says, “No, Anna. Once again, there’s nothing for you!” Way to rub it in, Carson. I hope someone else is in charge of the post come Valentine’s Day.
Back at the penitentiary, Bates gets a hangdog look when he too fails to get a letter. Have Bates and Anna gotten so passive each is waiting for the other to write first? Or is something more sinister going on?
Meanwhile, Matthew is complaining about all the work he has on his plate. Exasperated, Mary tells him to man up and start managing the estate. What is it about Downton that turns the younger generation of marrieds into middle-aged sad sacks and nags? Bored with the debate, Matthew asks Anna if she’s heard from Bates. She admits she hasn’t seen him for a while but that she’s certain she’ll hear from him soon. Matthew and Mary exchange a look that wonders if Bates found someone else. This being jail, it could be Jesus, Allah, or that blond jailyard buddy with the thick Cockney accent. I said thick Cockney ACCENT, you filthy cows.
Isobel Crawley pushes her way into Mrs. Hughes’ office to deliver the letter Ethel dropped off for her. Mrs. Hughes says that the last she knew of her, “she’d fallen into bad ways.” Cutehead Mrs. Hughes makes it sound like Ethel is sneaking into the girls’ room to smoke. But Isobel blurts out: “She’s been working as a prostitute.” “My, my, that’s not a word you hear in this house every day,” stammers Mrs. Hughes. Well, get used to it, Mrs. H. Isobel is going to be repeating it with relish every chance she gets. Something tells me she was that kid in preschool who always shouted “vagina” at the top of her lungs during assembly. Isobel just wants to help, but Mrs. H is skeptical of Ethel.
Over breakfast, Carson wants to know who’s boss, Matthew or the Earl? Matthew says nothing’s changed, he just holds the purse strings, is all. Or words to that effect. Carson then brings up the fact that they’re shorthanded and the Earl is all gung-ho about hiring new staff, but Matthew staves him off with: “I sometimes feel the world is rather different than it was before the war.” Which sounds vaguely lyrical, but Carson picks up what he’s putting down and gets all uppitty about having to do the work of a second footman. The Earl smooths Carson’s feathers but he has this look that says that trouble is a-brewing.
The following day at breakfast, Matthew finds out that Edith doesn’t have breakfast in bed because she’s not married. See, Edie, in the barbaric U.S. of A, you only get breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day and then only if you’ve procreated. Talking about women’s rights, the Earl reads in the paper about those ca-razy Americans letting women vote. Which reminds Edith that she can’t vote until she’s 30 and then only if she’s a householder. Robert remarks: “You sound like Sybil.” Troublemaker Matthew suggests Edith write a letter to the editor and she says maybe she will. Why not? After all, Edith’s missive to the Turkish ambassador was a success de scandale. I hope we see her hanging with Ginny Woolf at Bloomsbury soon because Edith’s storylines are beginning to depress me. The Earl shoos her away before Matthew advises she take up the trombone and join a ragtime band. Can’t you picture her hamming it up with Jack Lemmon in drag? Robert then proposes that Matthew look over the books, which Matthew balks at because he doesn’t want to step on Robert’s toes. You all know he’ll be stomping on those posies soon enough…
Downstairs, poor Anna broods over the lack of epistolary contact with her hubs. She can’t even check her spam filter, poor thing. Even the prospect of being Lady Mary’s lady’s maid doesn’t cheer her up. Carson also brings up the controversial topic of a footman, which rouses up the little feud between Thomas and Alfred. Redheads get no respect round here. I’d get my hands on some henna if I were Long Al. While these two tangle, Mrs. Hughes confides her worries about Ethel to Carson.
Mary calls Matthew to the nursery to ask for his opinion on some wallpaper. That done, he hangs around, anxiously hoping for happier news. Mary gets skittish and waves him away.
Now that she’s a spinster, Edith has become the errand girl. She brings Lady Vi a package. Granny worries about her and tells her she must find something to do. “Like what?” asks Edith. “You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do,” chides Lady Vi. If you’re going to be delivering packages, why not get job at UPS, Edie? Brown sucks but the men are fly, girl. Plus, they’re able-bodied and fit, which is a step up for you.
Below stairs, Thomas is being a spiteful little bitch with Al, but Carson tells him not to worry and offers to mentor him. Mrs. Hughes catches Anna sniffling and asks her what’s troubling her. Anna finally lets on that Bates’ silence is hurting her. She worries that this is his way of being “gallant” so that she breaks it off with him. Only Anna would interpret passive aggression and abandonment as a form of chivalry. But Mrs. H consoles her and tells her that Bates will write soon.
We cut to Bates and the other prisoners sewing in jail. The way these jail scenes are lit, I keep expecting Anne Hathaway to pop up belting her doleful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”. Bates’ buddy warns him that since he’s foiled the search, he’s now persona non-grata and has been included in the list of dangerous prisoners. Bates isn’t worried, the governor won’t believe them and besides, what’s the worst that can happen? That’s when his buddy tells him the real reason he hasn’t gotten any letters from Anna.
Carson makes good on his offer to teach Tall Al how to play the spoons. But Al gets all tripped up over the bouillon spoon. This little scene makes Thomas jealous because Carson never took him under his wing. Seriously. Thomas keeps this up and I’ll have to buy him a training bra.
Talking about wayward souls, Ethel finally opens up to Mrs. Hughes and Isobel. She wants Mrs. Hughes to arrange for the Bryants to take her son, Charlie. Isobel believes she can help her rebuild her life so she doesn’t want Ethel to give up Charlie. This is sad, but Ethel is right. They come to a compromise; Mrs. Hughes will write telling them that Ethel wants them to stay in contact with little Charlie. On Ethel’s way out, Isobel’s maid rudely refuses to help her into her coat.
Guess who’s coming to dinner? The archbishop, the prince of the Church. But not before Edith takes Sybil’s mysterious call about how “no one has stopped her.” This is intercut with shots of someone making a getaway on a bike in the rain. This should be suspenseful, but I kept worrying that the cyclist would make a hairpin turn and fall face-first in the mud. Carson intones that dinner is served, interrupting Edith’s concerned message to her Mum and sis.
Daisy is peeved that Carson can hire a footman and a maid, but there’s talk of a kitchen maid.
The Dowager Duchess asks the Archbishop, “Do you find that the war’s driven people back into the churches or further away than ever?” This tantalizing religious debate is cut short by a loud knock at the door. The Archbishop looks relieved that he can attend to his soup without having to make conversation. Man, sometimes you just want to eat, right?
Alfred runs off to answer the door. Who should be the mystery guest but Tom Branson? When Alfie asks after his luggage, he tells him that he barely has the clothes he stands in. Mary comes out to investigate and asks him where Sybil is. Branson explains that he had to get away without her but that she’s coming. He looks very upset and asks her not to tell anyone he’s there. At the table, Mary makes up a story but whispers the truth to her poppa, while downstairs the servants speculate that Branz is on the run from the police.
Next thing we know, the Grantham gang’s assembled in the library, grilling Branson. Did they even offer the Archbishop port and dessert, or did they just shoo him out as soon as he put down his fork? Anyway, it turns out that Branson was part of a crowd that turned out some British gentry – “Lord and Lady Drumgohool” — out of their castle and set fire to it. The police think that Branson was one of the instigators so he ran off and left Sybil. Cora says he left Sybil behind and saved himself but Branson counters that he’s prepared to go back and face the consequences. Lord Grantham is furious that he abandoned a pregnant woman in a country that was not her own. Cora says he has to consult their lawyer if only for Sybil’s sake. Robert shouts that he’ll sleep on it and have an answer in the morning.
Carson knew Branson would bring shame to this family, “He’s on the run from the police and for all we know Lady Sybil is languishing in a dungeon somewhere in Dublin.” Mrs. Hughes tells him to cool his jets and then she brings out something that looks like a prototype for R2-D2 but turns out to be a present for herself. Carson sputters, “Is it not enough that we’re sheltering a dangerous revolutionary, could you not have spared me that?” For goodness’ sake, Carson, it’s not a vibrator. It’s a toaster.
The morning brings a wonderful surprise to the servants’ hall in the form of a hottie. His name is Jimmy Kent. He’s come for the footman’s job. I foresee a man for Edith! All the ladies and Thomas are agog and a-giggling. I bet Thomas will be mentoring him soon. Who’ll win, Edith or Thomas? Carson interviews him and makes a snide remark about Jimmy being a ladies’ man. Carson can be such a sour old maid.
Meanwhile back in the library, Lord Grantham has decided he’ll go to London to speak to “Murray”. That’s his lawyer, not his bookie. But he wants to make it perfectly clear that he’s only doing this for Sybil.
The day has come for Ethel to talk to the Bryants. They all meet up at Isobel’s. Mr. Bryant right away breaks the ice by informing Ethel that they know all about how far she’s fallen. Turns out he’s had Ethel followed to keep a check on little Charlie. I wasn’t expecting this to be a heart-warming reunion, but damn. I’ve had root canals that were more enjoyable than this. Upshot: Mrs. Bryant offers Ethel money so she won’t, you know, but she refuses. Then they leave with little Charlie in tow. Mrs. Hughes commends Ethel for making the hardest decision she’ll ever make. This is so sad!
We’re back in jail and I’m going to have to put the captions on so I can figure out what Bates’ jailhouse buddy’s saying. Oh. Something’s going down tomorrow night. Is it a prison riot? We shall see.
Matthew finally started going over the books and Mary approves. Wasn’t he getting a little bored with nothing to do anyway? Carson brings tea and tells Mary about his footman dilemma. Mary advises him to pick the pretty but cocky one. This is this all beginning to sound very soft-porn. Maybe I shouldn’t have streamed “In the Realm of the Senses” the other night…
The jailhouse drama comes to a, ahem, climax, when the guardians search Craig’s bunk and find “a very mysterious package.” They take him away. Bates gets his letters from Anna shortly thereafter.
Sybil arrives in the morning, much to Branson’s relief. Sybil defends Branson, saying that his leaving was a mutual decision. But Papa still has to help them out. A telegram arrives from London and Cora reads it aloud. Papa has seen his lawyer and neither Sybil nor Branson are to leave Downton.
In the meantime, Matthew has discovered that the books are a mess and that Downton hasn’t been properly managed in years. Oh, boy. When he tries to bring it up with Mary, she bristles at the implication. Robert is so clueless, Matthew’s hints don’t even register.
Robert informs the Bransons that they can’t go back to Ireland. Sybil’s baby will be born on the premises, much to Tom’s chagrin. Having a kid born in the lap of luxury won’t do much for Branson’s street cred.
In other news, Edith’s letter is published. Good going, Edith! Since Carson has taken Mary’s advice to hire the pretty pretty footman, something tells me things are going to perk up. Starting with Thomas. In other good news, Daisy gets her long-awaited kitchen maid. Unfortunately, she is a hottie too and Alfred seems to like her. This is especially bad because Al gives Daisy the feelings.
Matthew finally goes to Lady Vi with his concerns about the management. He doesn’t want to put any noses out of joint. She very sensibly retorts that he has to do the right thing. So what if a great many noses will be out of joint?
Will Matthew develop a backbone or will his addiction to being a “nice guy” doom the estate?
Tune in next time, dear hearts.