Spoiler Alert: Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.
As episode six opens, Moseley is handing out tickets for a tour of the Abbey in aid of the Downton Hospital Trust. BRING ALL THE FAMILY IN A RARE OPPORTUNITY TO VIEW THE STATEROOMS OF THIS GRAND MANSION! shouts a poster affixed to the Church’s outdoor bulletin board.
Mary and Tom have come up with a brilliant idea that neither the earl nor his fond mama find appealing.
Downton Abbey | Photographer: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece
We’ve nothing to show them,” complains a grumpy earl, still abed after his vomitous projectile episode and sick of being sick. “Some dusty old portraits of relatives no one remembers … We sleep in a bed, eat at the table … What do we have to show them, except Lady Grantham knitting? They’ll do better taking the train to London and visiting the Tate.”
“People want to see a different sort of home, not the things in it. They want to see how the other half lives, where supreme calm, dignity, and propriety always reign,” says Lady Mary with a straight face.
“The Abbey is to be opened for one day for charity, nothing more,” adds Cora in a reassuring tone.
Tom says very little. He’s too busy calculating the amount the Abbey can rake in by multiplying the potential visitors, times the operating hours, times 6 d. admission per head, times the number of downstairs rooms that can be traipsed through, times the number of physically fit family members who can escort the hoi polloi at speeds calculated to make even a motor car driver like Henry Talbot dizzy. Since no member of the Crawley family has anything of historic interest to say about the Abbey, each paying customer should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete a 3-hour tour (complete with complimentary luggage and clothing for 3 years, courtesy of Madame Ginger of The Minnow Booking Agency). When Tom realizes what a treasure trove the Abbey represents, British pound signs begin to replace the pupils in his eyes.
But I digress. Let’s return to the earl’s bedroom, gentle readers, where Tom comes to himself long enough to say, “They have a curiosity about our way of life.”
Mary and Tom have made the decision,” says Cora with a finality that brooks no debate.
“I know well enough that when Mary has spoken, my opinion has little bearing on the matter. I still think it’s crackers,” Robert says peevishly.
Since his BLOODY episode at dinner, the earl’s been on a strict 500 calorie a day diet of broth and flavored gelatin. He’s hungry AND craving crackers, no doubt about it.
Two Friends Discuss Jane Austen
As an aside, conversations about visitors paying their hard-earned lucre to see an aristocratic pile of stone and its gardens are rather confusing for Jane Austen fans. It has been a grand tradition for housekeepers and butlers for centuries to show visitors around in great country estates for a moderate tip when the owners are away or at play. How else could Jane have contrived to place Elizabeth Bennet at Mr. Darcy’s great estate, Pemberley, and to have her meet him in the most embarrassing circumstances, only to discover that he’s a splendid fellow after all and that his house, reputation, and income aren’t all that shabby either? This well-known point was confirmed by Isobel, who sensibly reminds the unhappy Violet of this fact.
But why should they pay?” asks Lady Violet peevishly, “just to see an ordinary house?”
Ordinary, indeed. One wonders how our favorite dowager duchess would describe Chatsworth House or Castle Howard. She must regard her cozy dowager cottage as a mere hovel.
The two hospitals will merge, as expected, and the post of president will be offered to Cora, Lady Grantham. Lady Violet will be “allowed” to step down after many years of service. Her demotion smacks of age discrimination, since, in the words of Dr. Clarkson, her once loyal ally, “She is not as young as she once was.”
Cora is gob smacked. She’s to step into her mama-in-law’s shoes and be given more responsibility! “Who will tell her?” she asks, with some trepidation, knowing it would be wiser to provoke a rabid dog than to inflame her mama-in-law.
Let’s have the hospital write her a nice letter of termination after we leave for America. We will be well out of the way by then,” Isobel says sensibly.
Cora is almost tempted. Instead, she invites her mama-in-law to a discussion in the earl’s bedchamber. Before they can inform the dowager of her reduced status, Lady Violet announces, “The patients are my priority. I shall be MAGNANIMOUS in victory.” She exits the room, not having learned of her firing.
I suppose you will want to accept the position,” Robert says peevishly. “I worry that this will be too much for you. You’re not like Isobel. You need your rest.”
“What do you mean?” Cora asks in too soft a voice. “I’m not old, Robert.”
“I didn’t say you were!”
The earl spends the next few minutes prying his foot from his mouth.
A Fond Sisterly Exchange, Part Two
Bertie Pelham wants to meet up here,” announces Edith.
“Is he worth it?” asks Mary.
“As opposed to your car mechanic?” asks Edith.
“Hey,” says Tom. “I’m one.”
Opening the Abbey’s Doors to Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves
Meanwhile, downstairs, Carson hates the idea of strangers poking and prying around the house. “What are the odds of them slipping a valuable bauble or two, or a first edition, in their back pockets?” he asks, which causes Bates to worry that he or Anna could be charged with theft should an unscrupulous visitor lift a few priceless items, what with their bad luck and all. The constable’s always breathing down their necks when anything of a CRIMINAL nature occurs and he’s tired of the man’s harassment.
Tom and Bertie. Photographer: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece
The day of the tours nears. Bertie Pelham, who has come for a visit with Edith’s family, asks sensibly, “Who knows about the history of the house?”
Only our librarian, Mr. Pattinson,” answers Edith. “But he won’t be here.”
“You’ll have to fake it,” says Bertie, less sure of their success.
“Do we need anyone knowledgeable?” asks Tom. “Can’t they just have a quick look before we push them out like cattle?”
“Not if you don’t want them to go out happy and leave what’s not theirs,” says a sensible Bertie. “We’ll have the servants sit in an inconspicuous corner to keep an eye on things.”
In due course it is decided that the public will be taken through the small library, then the big library, then through the painted room, the withdrawing room and smoking room, the great hall, in and out of the dining room, and back outside.
What about the back staircases and the gardens?” asks Bertie, who worries that the visit might be a tad rushed. And then he comes to the important question. “Who are the guides?”
“Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Grantham. I’ll sell tickets,” says Tom.
“Well, then, Lady Grantham, you and your daughters will take parties of 10 each with no more than 30 people in the house at a time,” says Bertie decisively.
“Crikey!” says Edith.
“Heavens,” says Cora.
‘Hell!’ thinks Mary.
A line forms. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece
The day of the house tour arrives, the ticket table is placed at the front door, a long line is forming, and our aristocratic trio of ladies are ready as they will ever be. They fail miserably as docents, of course, their knowledge of the priceless paintings and artifacts in the house being a smidgen above zero. How could they have known that people of humble origins would ask such impossibly intelligent questions?
Cora smiling instead of informing. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece
As a group tours through the house with Lady Cora, she quickly reveals how little she knows about the saloon.
This room was medieval,” she ventures.
“Is that why it’s called Downton Abbey?”
“I guess so.”
A visitor points to a portrait. “Who painted that?”
“I’m not sure, but…” Cora gestures vaguely around the room… “This painting and that painting, and, oh, that one over there, well, they’re quite worth looking at. Don’t you think?”
“What are those blank shields on the mantelpiece?”
Cora peers closely. “I haven’t a clue.”
Edith reveals her ignorance. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece
Lady Edith is not faring much better than her momma.
Tell us about that painting,” asks one visitor.
“They’re all rather marvelous, don’t you think? Truth be told, I haven’t looked at them in years. They’re part of the background…”
“Who is the architect?”
“Sir Charles Barry. He finished the Houses of Parliament and built lots of other lovely big buildings, or so I think. Well, I’m almost sure.”
In the library, Lady Mary reassures her group that the sitter in one portrait, “…might be the son or it MIGHT be the father…”
Before Lady Mary spews more inanities, Lady Violet barges into the library, not caring that there are 30 strangers in her son’s house. “WHERE IS SHE!!!” the dowager demands, looking for the traitorous USURPER. She has just found out about her amicable discharge from the hospital board and will not wait another second to speak her mind.
Lady Mary, wishing to deflect her grandmama from saying something untoward AND have her answer a question that has her stymied, asks Violet about who founded the library.
The library was assembled by the fourth earl. He was a great reader. He was also a collector of horses and women,” she says, charging out of the room.
The visitors realize that the dowager imparted more information in three curt sentences than the ‘docents’ had in 2 ½ hours.
Meanwhile, a bored Robert, in danger or developing bedsores from lying around too long, espies a cheeky little rascal peeking around his bedroom door.
Who are you?”
The boy looks up and around, curious. “Why is your house so big?”
Robert is taken aback. “I’m not sure really.”
“Why not buy something that’s comfortable. You must have the money,” the urchin says reasonably.
“You know how it is,” the earl sighs. “You like what you’re used to.”
Molesley appears at the doorway, sees the tyke, orders him out of the family quarters, and threatens to report him.
No,” the earl says, “he was more a philosopher than a thief.”
After Tom counts up the day’s till (minus the amount refunded to unhappy customers), he proposes that the Abbey should be opened for more tours in the future. This sets off a shrill protest among the docents, who quit en masse.
So much for family unity.
An Undelivered Letter
Some days later, as Mrs. Patmore tosses out some kitchen scraps, she finds a letter from Mr. Mason, which Daisy accidentally on purpose dropped in the rubbish bin.
Why is it opened?” Mrs. P. asks suspiciously, curling her nose at the odors emanating from the pages.
“I don’t know,” says Daisy, deliberately forgetting that Mr. Mason charged her to give Mrs. Patmore his missive.
“Did the letter grow legs and walk to the rubbish bin?”
“Did it somehow open itself?”
“Pah,” says Mrs. Patmore, thinking, ‘We’ll see about this.’
When Mr. Mason drops by with a basket of fresh veggies, ostensibly to thank Mrs. Patmore, but actually to see her sweet face again, Daisy turns even more childish.
You’ve already thanked her,” she says petulantly. “Besides, why bother? Have you seen the kitchen gardens here?”
Mrs. Patmore tries to be gracious, telling Mr. Mason that his carrots are tastier, his cabbages are bigger, and his onions make her cry harder. But all he can think of is finding the fastest way out of the kitchen before the hens start fighting over the rooster.
Charlie Sweet Talks Elsie
The look of love is in her eyes
Charlie would like his bride to have a talk with Mrs. Patmore about the art of making a proper cup of coffee for an occasional breakfast in their cottage, and perhaps arrange for the hall boy do some polishing and keep their home up to STANDARD.
I don’t see why not,” says Elsie, gritting her teeth.
“And you might ask one of the maids to make up our bed.”
“Is that not good enough EITHER?”
“Oh, it’s not bad, but I do like those sharp corners.”
Elsie reaches for a piece of paper. At the top of her to do list will be a visit to the parish priest about the procedures for annulling a hasty marriage.
Unaware of his beloved’s thoughts, Charlie keeps pressing the issue of dinner.
You’re not expecting a banquet, are you?” she asks suspiciously.
“No, just a delicious dinner prepared by the fair hands of my beautiful wife.”
While flattered, Elsie thinks, ‘I’m up a creek without a ladle.’
Flotsam and Jetsam
Thomas Barrow, meanie under butler, is trying to get back into everyone’s good graces without much success. Carson sums up Barrow’s future at Downton: 1) Lady Edith already manages without a maid, 2) probably not even one footman will be working in the Abbey in the future, and 3) Lady Mary will probably not replace Anna if she leaves. “The under butler,” he concludes, is a “post that is FRAGRANT with lost memories, unlike a butler. A house like Downton cannot be run without one.” This cheery discussion leaves Thomas even more despondent.
Mr. Moseley’s transformation from inept butler and first footman to a world class educator is almost complete. Mr. Dawes the school master, likes Moseley’s enthusiasm in helping Daisy study for her exam and wonders if he should harness his intellectual energy and take a test of general knowledge (of his own devising) at the same time that Daisy takes her test. Largely self-schooled, Moseley is unsure, but he is finally persuaded to take the test alongside Daisy. This results are so excellent that Mr. Dawes offers Mr. Moseley a teaching position. How sweet. It’s about time that our Mr. Moseley gets to shine!
Mrs. Patmore has bought a pretty little house with the money she inherited from her relative, and will transform into a bed and breakfast. She’ll continue to cook, while her niece will take over the day-to-day management of their little inn.
How will you attract lodgers?” Mrs. Hughes wonders.
Mrs. Patmore, 20th century entrepreneur, has a ready answer. “I’ve already placed an advertisement in the paper.”
“How will they contact you?”
“I’ve installed a telephone in the house,” replies our favorite cook and trail blazer.
Dickie, still intent on courting Isobel despite the execrable behavior of his two sons, brings a Miss Cruikshank around to meet her. This young lady is engaged to Larry Grey, the most venomous of Dickie’s boys.
I know you and Larry got off on the wrong foot,” Miss Cruikshank says sweetly.
“That’s one way of describing it,” says Isobel.
“Please know, not all of Lord Merton’s family feels the same way.”
‘Goodness,’ thinks Isobel, scrutinizing Dickie’s face for any sense of irony. ‘I might look like a gullible widow, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Something’s afoot and methinks I need to tread carefully.’
Back to the Newlyweds
How are we doing?” says Charlie as he waits for his meal at his cozy table in his cozy cottage for two.
Elsie, smiling, serves him smoked salmon with lemon. Only, there is no lemon. “I left two lemons at the Abbey,” she mourns.
Charlie then suggests that horseradish thinned with a little sour cream would hit the spot just fine.
“There’s none,” says Elsie sadly. She looks at her glass of … plain water. “What are we drinking with our meal?”
“What you see. His lordship cannot drink alcohol, ergo we shall not drink alcohol. Loyalty is solidarity,” he intones.
“Is that what’s making you grumpy?”
Charlie raises his impressive eyebrows. “I think not. What’s next?”
“Is the skin crispy like Mrs. Patmore’s does it. Did you ask her advice?”
“We certainly talked about what it’s like to cook dinner for you,” says Elsie, handing Charlie his plate and muttering under her breath, “She thinks you’re too old to be trained as a husband.”
Charlie, having found one tiny piece of crispy skin, bites into it and fails to hear his beloved.
The Sisters, Their Bachelors, Their Prospects
The rain, the man, the woman
Henry Talbot has a clear notion that his prospects with Lady Mary are modest at best, but he’s not deterred. He walks her back to her place in London after an ambush dinner. The weather cooperates and they must seek shelter from a rain storm. He takes her in his arms and kisses her.
Heaven’s Mr. Talbot.”
“You’re a great catch. You’re also a woman I happen to be falling in love with. Gosh, that sounds rather feeble doesn’t it?”
“No!” she says, thinking, ‘Frankly, you had me at…”You’re the boss.” ’
“Then will you come to Brooklands to watch me motor race?”
“You must realize that Matthew died in a car crash.”
“What if I promise I won’t…”
She shushes him, saying “Love mean never making promises you can’t keep.”
Meanwhile, at the Abbey Tom mentions to Robert, Cora, and Mary how much he likes Bertie after his buffo performance as grandmaster of the house tour.
“He seems to know a lot,” agrees Cora.
“But he’s an agent,” says the earl, “stuck somewhere up in Northumberland, managing someone else’s estate.”
Mary cuts to the chase as usual. “He’s boring to an Olympic degree. Edith’s so stupid to have saddled herself with a child. Marigold is sweet, but why would any man want to take her on?”
“What are Edith’s prospects?” says Cora, concerned about her daughter’s SECRET.
“With her magazine, she could develop into one of the more interesting women of her day. And he’s a gentleman. You cannot object on that score,” says the earl, finally seeing the gold and the attraction in his middle daughter.
Cora and Robert leave, giving Tom the opportunity to talk about Henry. Mary mentions going to Brooklands to watch the motor race.
“But, the cars…!” she adds, worried.
“Could this be love,” Tom wonders aloud.
“Oh, shut up!” says Mary.
My how time flies, except when you’re writing a recap and review. Six down, three to go. And then? I’ll get to write about Jane Austen again.
What did you think of this week’s developments, dear readers? Will Henry snare Mary? Will Edith reveal to Bertie that Marigold is her daughter any time soon? Will Robert start drinking port again? And how many top Yelp reviews will Mrs. Patmore’s little inn attract?
My other Downton Abbey Season 6 Reviews:
Read Full Post »