Let’s cut to the chase, shall we, and not be blindsided by the numerous side trips in Episode 8 of Season 6. After this week, the creators of Downton Abbey will have one meager episode left to tie a multitude of plotlines into one neat strand. Will Episode 9 leave viewers satisfied? Is it possible? We’ll see soon. Warning: Plot spoilers. Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.
The episode opens with the camera panning to the constable interrogating a hapless Beryl Patmore.
“Mrs. Patmore, you are the owner of a cottage on #3 on orchard lane. Among your guests was a certain Dr. Fletcher and his wife…?”
“Yes, they were my first and respectable customers.”
“Not as respectable as you think. The doctor is a mister. The wife is a missus, alright, but she’s a Mr. Dorrit’s missus.”
‘Oooooh,’ thinks Beryl, ‘that’s not good.’
“You may be called upon to testify on their ADULTERY. There is some concern that your B&B will be in the news as a house of ill repute.”
Beryl nearly faints at the thought of being known as a bawdy house madam.
In short order, a photographer stalks her at every turn to take a picture. Bookings are cancelled and business dries up. She wrings her hands with worry. What’s an honest cook to do?
Color Mary Green with Envy
At breakfast Tom and Mary discover from reading the paper that Bertie’s cousin, the 6th Marquess of Hexum, has died in Tangiers.
“Does this mean Bertie’s out of a job?” asks Mary, pretending sympathy. “Poor Edith.”
“Actually, no, it means he’s the heir,” says Tom.
Mary’s stiff upper lip drops to the carpet and her complexion turns Wicked-Witch-of-the-East green. ‘Crikey,’ she thinks. ‘Edith will outrank us all!!!! PLUS ME!!’
The news prompts the earl and his Cora to dance a little dance of joy. Their Edith is coming into her own!
Tom thinks, ‘well done, Edith. This chap is getting better by the minute.’
“So we’ll all bow and curtsy to Edith,” he says, pouring more salt into Mary’s wound.
Mary’s eyes narrow. “Well, Lord Hexam won’t want to marry her now.”
“Careful now, people might think you’re jealous, dear, and we don’t want that,” cautions her fond momma.
“If Henry was the Marques of Hexam, he’d have to beat the women off!”
“And Bertie?” asks Tom.
Mary sniffs in answer.
“Shame on you,” says Tom.
“Oh, stop lecturing me,” she says, her mind in turmoil. How has Edith managed to best her in the husband-hunting department? She clicks her pointy shoes three times, wishing Edith a speedy one-way ticket with Toto to Kansas.
Meanwhile, Edith confides to Aunt Rosamund that she’s worried Bertie will break up with her now that he’s one of the grandest men in all of England. “The engagement isn’t for sure.”
Rosamund isn’t as concerned as Edith, but she worries that her niece has yet to tell the truth about Marigold and that this secret might harm her prospects. (Cue ominous music.)
Meanwhile an ecstatic earl bounds around the Abbey like a flower girl in a field of daisies. “A genuine copper-bottomed marquess,” he sings gleefully. Who’d have thought his Edith could have pulled off such a magnificent coup!!
Mary is tres unhappy. She’s unhappy that Edith is happy while she’s unhappy. Tom, knowing her problem is her break-up with Henry, urges her to talk to the motor race driver, but she nixes the idea.
“We need to marry sensibly. Especially if were going to inherit the family show,” she sniffs.
Learning from Tom that Edith is Marigold’s mama, she wonders why he’s remained silent.
“It was not my secret to tell,” he says, unconcerned that Mary now knows the truth.
The Truth Revealed
A grieving Bertie stops by the Abbey before he travels to Tangiers for the funeral. He truly loved his cousin, who was just in his thirties and about to marry. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect to inherit the title.
“Are you here to settle things with Edith before you leave? Mary inquires.
“I think so, but I must not jump the gun,” he answers. “I have MOTHER to think of. It’s just the two of us now.”
But he has thought about his future with Edith and he confides in her that as a marquess he does not want to be disappointing. The rank carries responsibilities and he needs her help for courage.
Edith loves Bertie, but her mind is in turmoil. “Yes, no, yes,” she says, worrying about Marigold but still keeping the secret. “I think I live in a fools paradise.”
Bertie is ecstatic. “I’ll take it as a yes!”
And so Edith and Bertie have an UNDERSTANDING. (Ah, don’t you just love British stiff upper lip passion?)
Mary’s Raging Inner Bitch Unleashed
Henry Talbot, refusing to give up on Mary, drops by the Abbey unannounced.
“This is so precisely not the way to win me over,” Mary says by way of greeting.
Their remeeting has not started off well. Then, when Henry overhears Tom and Mary argue over him, he leaves, realizing the futility of winning her over, and promising himself never to darken her door again.
His departure leaves Mary in as foul a mood as she’s ever been and completely unreceptive to the happy news Bertie and Edith wish to share at breakfast. Seeing her stormy face, Edith hesitates.
“Perhaps this is not a good time?”
“Edith, if the news is good, then we are very happy for you both,” says Tom. “Aren’t we Mary?
Mary remains stone cold silent.
“See. I told you,” says Edith. “The one thing that Mary can’t bear is when things are going better for me than for her.”
“Surely, that’s not true,” says an unsuspecting Bertie.
“You don’t know her,” Edith says to Bertie and stares at her sister. “I’m getting married and you’ve lost your man and you can’t stand it.”
Mary seizes the moment to extract revenge. “You’re wrong, I’m very happy for you. And I admire you Bertie, Not every man will accept Edith’s past.”
“Mary don’t,” warns Tom.
“Well, you’ve told him,” she says looking at Edith. “You couldn’t accept him without telling him.”
“What…?” says Bertie.
“About Marigold. Who she really is,” says Mary.
Bertie stares at Edith, who sees her world tumble around her.
“Marigold is my daughter.”
“Will you excuse me?” says Bertie, leaving the table. He heads up the stairs to pack and then summon a taxi.
As he waits for his ride, he and Edith have a final conversation. It is obvious that they are madly in love with each other, but he cannot get beyond the fact that she tried to trick him. He needs trust and she didn’t trust him.
Edith watches him depart, feeling that she’s thrown all happiness away forever.
Mary receives a blistering tongue lashing from Tom. She pretends that she didn’t know Edith had not told Bertie, but he doesn’t believe her.
“Don’t lie. You got what you wanted. You can’t stop ruining things!”
“Henry was high handed and bullying when he was here. Am I expected to lower myself to his level and be grateful?” she says in defense.
“Listen to yourself. You ruined Edith’s life today. How many lives are you going to wreck just to smother you own misery?”
“I refuse to listen.”
“You’re a coward, Mary, like all bullies, you’re a coward.”
A little later, Mary visits Edith and sees that she’s packing a suitcase. “Going away?”
“Do you care?”
“Look ,I wasn’t to know you hadn’t told him. It never occurred to me.”
“Just shut up! I don’t know what’s happened. Tom has made you feel bad, or Papa, or maybe it’s the same old Mary – she wants her cake and hate me too. I know you. I know you to be a nasty, jealous, scheming bitch.”
“Listen, you pathetic…”
Edith rounds on Mary. “You’re a bitch. And not content with ruining your own life but you’re determined to ruin mine.”
“I have not ruined my life. And if Bertie is put off by that then…”
“Don’t demean yourself by trying to justify your venom. Just go!” Edith takes her luggage in hand and turns to her sister. “And you’re wrong, you know, as you so often are. Henry is perfect for you. You’re just too stupid and stuck up to see it. Still, he’s lucky enough to get away from you, which is something to give thanks about.” Having gotten her anger and frustration out, Edith leaves for London.
When, oh, when, gentle readers, shall we see our Edith happy? Like our repetantThomas, she deserves a positive turn in her life.
The Plan to Save Beryl
Beryl Patmore, needing to bury a big story with an even bigger story, is happy when the earl and Cora invite themselves over for tea to lend the place their respectability. Carson DISAPPROVES, feeling she’ll be dragging the family into the muck.
His negative attitude affects Beryl, who asks to speak to the earl and Cora.
“I know you’re planning to come over for tea, but should you? It’s my mess, why should you be caught up in it?”
“Indeed,” mutters Carson, having taken quite a few lessons in churlishness from Daisy. He tells the family that he doesn’t want to see them dragged into a local tawdry brouhaha.
“I think we have to show a little more backbone than that,” replies Robert. “Mrs. Patmore has been loyal to this house and now this house must be loyal to her. She has made a large investment in her future. We can’t let it fall away to nothing.”
Beryl is overcome with gratitude.
“Well see you on Friday,” the earl says pointedly.
Carson raises his substantial eyebrows, but says nothing until he and his Elsie are alone.
“You think I’m a curmudgeon.”
“Yes, but MY curmudgeon,” Elsie says and kisses her husband.
Belowstairs, Thomas wanders around the halls like one of the walking dead, his face pasty and expressionless, his movements slow and automatic. He’s received a letter saying he is overqualified for a position, and he sees no way out of his predicament.
Baxter is the only one who notices his distress, but she’s about to accompany Moseley to the schoolhouse. Thinking of his first frustrating day teaching class, Moseley shares his concerns about being a teacher, telling her he feels like a fraud.
“What if they found out I was a servant in the big house?”
“Why don’t you tell them?” says Baxter sensibly.
Then Moseley shares with her something that Thomas said earlier. “He told me ‘I hope you make something more of your life than I have.’ ”
Baxter has a sudden premonition and runs back to the house. As she searches for Thomas, she enlists Andy to help her find him. Andy kicks down the locked door to the bathroom and they discover Thomas in the bathtub with both his wrists cut.
Baxter goes into crisis control to keep the incident a secret except for the most trusted servants.
Edith’s broken engagement has cast a pall on the family in the drawing room.
“Anna says Edith’s gone to London,” says Cora.
“Do we really have to go over this now?” Mary says, still stinging from Tom’s and Edith’s angry words.
Rosamund gives her an angry glare. “Yes!”
Carson enters the room with the tea tray.
“Where are the footmen?” asks the earl. Carson quietly tells him of Barrow’s suicide. “Not many know. I shall say he is ill with influenza.”
“How sad,” says Robert, truly affected by the news.
Mary comes over to pour the tea. “Do you still think dismissing Barrow was a useful saving, Papa?”
“That’s below the belt, even for you.”
For once Mary takes all the negative comments to heart and seems remorseful. “What a day. I ruined Lady Edith’s life and Barrow tried to end his.”
Yes We Have No Bananas
Meanwhile in London, Edith is preoccupied with overseeing the magazine’s operations. Miss Cassandra Jones is expected to arrive in person to discuss an increase in salary for her delightful Agony Aunt column, which has proven to be a huge success. Edith’s editor, Laura Edmunds, has asked the writer to show up in person for the salary negotiations. Laura and Edith speculate who the writer might be. What if she sends a proxy? The two women agree beforehand to use a verbal signal should the real Miss Jones show up to reveal her true writer’s colors, and settle on “bananas.”
As it turns out, to much of the viewers’ delight, an anxious Sprat shows up as Miss Jones.
Laura and Edith look at each other with gleeful expressions – “Bananas!” they cry out in unison, leaving Sprat somewhat baffled.
Corrective Action Dowager Style
The dowager returns from her travels after Tom informs her about the situation with Edith and Mary.
Granny wastes no time confronting Mary. “Why did you do it?” she asks her oldest granddaughter without accusation.
“I’m sorry now, she says coolly. “With Edith I just say things and then they can’t be unsaid.”
“You’re unhappy. That’s why you lash out.”
“Henry is well born, but he has no money, no position He’s not even a country man! He grew up in London.”
“Like every social climbing banker shoots.”
“Tom thinks you’re in love with him.”
Mary’s hackles are raised. “You of all people to talk as if his qualifications don’t matter!”
“Tony Gillingham had birth, money, looks, but he didn’t suit you. He wasn’t clever enough, wasn’t strong enough. Henry Talbot is both.”
“I can’t be a car crash widow again. I can’t have him give up his profession. He’d resent me!”
“Believe in love.”
“Oh, granny, you do surprise me.”
“First make peace with your sister, then, make peace with yourself.”
Mary is at sixes and sevens. She tells Tom she ought to be angry with him for summoning granny. He’s amazed the dowager came at all.
Mary and Henry
Mary capitulates to pressure and summons Henry Talbot, mistaking him for a whack-a-mole who keeps popping up.
“You’ve whistled and I’m here. Now what?”
She goes for a Hail Mary Pass, Mary Crawley style. “I’ve stopped fighting it. A couple should be equal in both strength and passion,” she says as cool and collected as an accountant tallying up a column of simple figures.
“Are you always so calm and rational? I do hope so. I’m blowing hot and cold, east and west, plus seltzer water bubbles, and can’t think straight for the trembling in my upper and lower extremities.”
“I tremble at the touch of your hands,” she says, her face not betraying a whit of emotion.
He touches her hand.
“Oh darling,” she says with an unvarying expression. “Now what? Elope?”
“The fact is I happen to have a marriage license in my pocket. It’s good for another few hours. Wanna get hitched?”
“What about finding a bishop?”
“My uncle’s a bishop.”
“Good old merry reliable England. What about the caterers?”
“My aunt’s a caterer.”
“Well, then, let’s get married post haste.”
“Mmm. Why not? Saturday, then?”
And so Mary and Henry plan their wedding in five easy minutes, with a bishop thrown in and all of Downton Abbey their stage.
We see Mary at her most vulnerable when she visits Matthew’s grave to talk to him.
“I love him. I believe we are right together. I so much want to feel that you’d be happy for me. Remember, no matter how much I love him, I will always love you.”
There’s not a dry eye in the PBS audience.
Edith arrives unexpectedly for Mary’s wedding, looking raw and sad.
“You know I’m sorry,” Mary says matter of factly. “Why are you here?”
“Because you were unhappy, so you wanted me to be unhappy too Now, you’ll be nicer—for a while.”
“Why are you here?”
“Because, one day only we will remember Sybil or Mama or Papa, or Mathew or Michael, and any of the people of our youth. Our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike. Matthew wanted you to be happy – he would be very pleased…You look nice, by the way.”
Hearing Edith’s words, Mary’s shriveled heart begins to grow two sizes and glow, although most of us would take bets on how long this reconciliation will last.
The viewers are next treated to one of the speediest weddings in PBS history. We get no glimpse of the wedding breakfast. Was it a sit down? Or a stand up with nibbly bits passed around?
Curious minds want to know
Having seen the honeymooning couple off for a few days of uninterrupted bliss, the earl, Cora and Rosamund set off for Beryl’s cottage to save her business. After a fancy tea with Beryl’s special scones, they emerge, looking rich and sated. The villagers gaze starstruck as if this were a red carpet event. The photographer from the Echo takes a picture, thereby saving Beryl’s reputation from notoriety.
Feeling magnanimous (and somewhat shamed), the earl and Carson agree that Thomas can stay at the Abbey for the time being until he is recovered. Carson comes as close to apologizing as he can.
“I didn’t credit him as a man with any feelings. Turns out he has a heart.”
Thankfully, gentle readers, this is not the last episode of the last season. If it were, we would all be up in arms. Care to guess what the future holds for the Crawleys, Talbots, Pelhams, Carsons, and Bateses? And what of Moseley and Baxter, Isobel and Dickie, Beryl and Mr. Mason, and Daisy and Andy? Will love survive? AND WHAT OF TOM? Will love come his way again?
Some interesting side trips
- Moseley is coming into his own. He is giving teaching a try out for a few hours a day. The going is rough at first, with the children paying him no mind, but he takes Baxter’s advice and shares with them that he spent his life in service. His openness wins the class over, with the children becoming more receptive to his thoughts and knowledge.
- Daisy’s churlishness has thankfully been curtailed this week. She’s passed her exams and gives Moseley a compliment about his ability as a teacher, calling him a natural.
- Amelia Cruikshank, Larry Gray’s fiancée, has called on Isobel to urge her to attend the wedding. Isobel is wary, knowing how much Dickie’s son hates her. She resists Amelia’s advances, saying, “The ball is in Larry’s court. Only he can play it.” Viewers are beginning to wonder what Amelia’s motives are. Is she a conniver or is she sincere?