'Downton Abbey' Recap: Season 6, Episode 3

This is the greatest episode. Obviously. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE)

Downton Abbey Part Three - Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 9pm ET on MASTERPIECE on PBS A wedding dress drama takes a disastrous turn. The breakfast battle is settled. A handsome volunteer helps Edith meet a deadline. The hospital debate gets nasty. Shown from left to right: Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes and Jim Carter as Mr. Carson (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only. USE ON THIRD PARTY SITES SUCH AS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER IS NOT ALLOWED.

Carnival Films

This is the greatest episode. Obviously. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE)
This is the greatest episode. Obviously. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Downton Abbey: Carson and Mrs. Hughes have a disagreement about what kind of wedding (and reception) they’d like to have. Mrs. Drewe continues to have a lot of emotional issues as s result of Edith reclaiming Marigold, and literally everyone on the show basically refuses to acknowledge the wrong that they’ve all done this woman. After Mrs. Drewe basically kidnaps Marigold, the family is basically forced to give up their tenancy on the farm they’ve worked for generations. Thomas starts looking for a new job. The fight over the future of the hospital continues; no one cares.  

If you missed last week’s recap, you still have time to stop by and check it out. As far as this week’s episode goes, I’m still smiling, so that seems like a pretty good sign, yeah?

The Crawley Ladies Help Out Mrs. Hughes. Mrs. Patmore is pretty concerned about the state of the impending Carson/Hughes nuptials – she knows that Mrs. Hughes is unhappy with a lot of the ancillary wedding events, including the reception venue, thanks to Carson’s insistence on having it all Downton, and she’s also worried that her friend has picked out a frumpy nightmare ensemble to wear during the ceremony. Realizing that these sorts of problems are really just beyond her abilities, she decides to tell Cora everything –how unhappy Mrs. Hughes is, largely due to the fact that she’s pretty much been railroaded by Mr. Carson about all wedding decisions. Cora, being a champion person most of the time, decides to take matters into her own hands.

After dinner, Cora has Mrs. Hughes come see her and Lady Mary in the drawing room where she explains that she knows she’s has been pushed into having reception at Downton. Mrs. Hughes admits that she would prefer a different sort of meal, and maybe some music and dancing after the ceremony, along with several other things that would be inappropriate for the great hall at Downton Abbey. Mary gets kind of obnoxious about her answer, insisting that Carson deserves to get married in the house he’s worked for for so long, but Mrs. Hughes insists that their wedding should be about them, and not about the house, or its history or the people who live in it. Cora smiles and says she understands completely, and Mrs. Hughes says they’re all still invited and it would be an honor if they’d attend.                                                                                            

After Mrs. Hughes leaves, Mary snottily says she doesn’t see why they have to listen to any of that from her, but Cora insists that her daughter needs to stop bullying the servants. Mary calls her mother a snob in response because Mary…is just really rude or something, I don’t know. Carson walks back in at this point and everyone shuts up, but honestly Mary’s the one that comes off looking awful here. 

Anna and Bates Get Some Good News for Once. Sort of. Mary asks Anna whether she’s given any thought to their recent visit to her gynecologist friend Dr. Ryder. Anna says yes, because she thinks she might be pregnant, but it’s too early to know for sure. She’s obviously thrilled, and Mary is positively over the moon about the prospect of Baby Bates, asking whether Anna should be working at all and offering to shove her duties onto Baxter if necessary. (As rude as this claim is, it’s also a kind of adorable gesture.)

Anna just says that she doesn’t want to do anything yet, including saying anything to her husband, because she doesn’t want to get his hopes up, in case it’s not true or the procedure to save the pregnancy doesn’t work. Mary is so so excited, and promises to invent an excuse for them to go to London as soon as three months have gone by. 

Meanwhile, that Storyline About the Hospital is Still Happening. I’m basically going to add this in as a placeholder every week until something worthwhile actually happens with this storyline. In short: the York hospital is still trying to take over the village facility, Violet is still mad about it, and Isobel is busy recruiting  various board members to her side.

Cora thinks that having access to additional treatments and such would be great for the village, and Violet is furious that no one is listening to her. She vows to destroy everyone and win in the end, also she and Isobel exchange barbs. One has to assume that this storyline will go somewhere eventually, but for the moment, anytime someone says the word “hospital”, the entire show grinds to a halt. 

As usual, Sansa Stark speaks for me. Photo: HBO

Don't get me wrong - I love Maggie Smith, and I love the Dowager Countess, and I love a good snarky one-liner as much as the next Downton fan. But this storyline makes Violet come off as a bossy, backward tyrant who's only concerned with her own power, and that's never been the case with her character before. Sure, she likes power, but the Dowager has always been remarkably adaptable with the times, even when she hasn't liked it or necessarily wanted to be. She's a traditionalitst, but she's not an idiot. So it's a bit difficult to believe she'd choose something that's demonstrably damaging to the village she cares about just to win a fight with Isobel. (If it really seemed as though Violet were convinced the local hospital were the 100% right solution for the village because [INSERT LEGIT REASON HERE] that would clearly be one thing. But that certainly doesn't seem to be what's going on here, and it's exhausting. 

Edith Meets a Nice Man (Again). While in London yet again to deal with more problems at her magazine, Edith runs into Bertie Pelham, the nice guy that she meet during last season’s Christmas special when the Crawleys visited Rose and her new in-laws at Brancaster Castle. They chat for a few minutes about various things, until Bertie finally gets around to ask Edith if she’d like to have a drink with him. (Yay, Edith!) She hems and haws about how much work she has to do, but Bertie says he’s about to head back home the next day so he won’t be able to reschedule. Edith says yes, which sets me immediately to worrying about whether Bertie has some kind of dark and tragic past that will ruin everything.

Edith then heads to the office, where she has yet another conversation with her dreadful editor, who seems to not only be a disgusting sexist, but also really bad at being a magazine editor. Edith finally throws her hands up and fires him, probably for both of the aforementioned reasons. Awful Editor’s secretary has been listening outside the door, comes in to tell her good riddance and well done. Edith says that the problem now is that they have to get this issue to the printers by the completely arbitrary time of 4am, and so they’ll have to stay up all night and pull together to get it done themselves. (Girl power?) This also means she’s probably going to have to cancel on drinks with Bertie. Womp womp. 

Daisy Seems to Have Got it Wrong Again. Thanks to an offhand comment Cora makes during tea, Daisy is now convinced that she’s plotting to help Mr. Mason find a new place to live. It seems that the Drewes are giving up Yew Tree Farm (you know, since Edith’s pretty much destroyed their lives and no one seems to feel particularly bad about it), and she has immediately decided that that must have been Cora’s idea last week, to give Mr. Mason the lease there once they’ve vacated. Molesley sagely reminds Daisy that they can all hope for the best, but they shouldn’t assume anything because it may not come to pass. He so should not have told her any of this, because Daisy’s like a dog with a bone with this information, and it’s exhausting to watch.

When she runs into Cora while she’s lighting the fires, Daisy tells her how grateful she is for everything she’s doing for Mr. Mason. Cora looks really confused, and then pained and awkward, so you just know this is not going to end well. Oh, Daisy. What are they doing with this character this season? Is she supposed to be this annoying for a reason? Or ??

The Dress Situation is Kind of Dire. Mrs. Patmore’s attempt to order Mrs. Hughes a dress for her wedding has become somewhat problematic, as the outfit she gets from a catalog turns out to be pretty dull. Anna, who is also (obviously) Team Mrs. Hughes, goes to see Mary about the problem. (Side note: Their friendship this season is seriously just amazing.) They realize that they can’t make any of Mary’s clothes fit Mrs. Hughes, so they think that borrowing something from Cora’s closet will be the best option. Mary says she’s sure her mother won’t mind, and tells Anna to take Mrs. Hughes to try on some evening coats in Cora’s closet the next day.

Unfortunately, no one cleared this plan with Cora, who was out all day in York visiting the hospital as part of the (tedious and dull) ongoing battle between Violet and Isobel. She ends up having a rather uncomfortable fight with Violet and Dr. Clarkson afterward, and comes home in a snit. So when she finds Anna, Baxter and Mrs. Hughes in her bedroom trying on various evening coats and hats, she’s furious. She reprimands all three of them, and really pretty rude about it, insisting that this isn’t the sort of behavior she’d ever have expected from her, ever. Not your best moment, Cora. Sheesh.

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. Edith rushes to the bar to meet Bertie, and tell him that she has a work crisis and won’t be able to stay. He’s pretty awesome about it, and volunteers to come help Edith paste pages or whatever she needs him to do at the office. She’s surprised, but Bertie confesses he just really wanted to spin the evening with her, and had planned to ask her to dinner during their drinks date anyway. Edith smiles. So, Bertie comes back to the office with her, which is basically a sign that Edith should probably just marry him immediately - and between the two of them and the awesome new secretary whose name we don’t know but totally should, things all work out. The gang does typing and layouts together – they even get their own montage! – and finally gets the finished package off to the printer in the middle of the night.

Afterward, Edith thanks Bertie for his help and then they discuss Edith’s career plans, now that she’s sort of made herself into an editor by trial-by-fire. She’s not sure what she wants to do with herself yet, but knows that she has to have a purpose in whatever she does. Bertie calls her inspiring and makes cow eyes at her, so Edith should really just go with this immediately. 

Random Aside: Mr. Molesley is Amazing. One of the random small sub-plots going on this season is Molesley’s attempt to help Daisy with her educational goals. This is another one of those little throwaway filler storylines that probably won’t amount to anything significant, but is just nice to see because of the way it highlights small, meaningful moments in characters’ lives, that isn’t really connected to a major story. (Or at least not yet. Maybe it will be several episodes from now.) Anyway, he’s gotten her practice exams from the local school and is attempting to teach her history and is just generally all around patient and wonderful. (I love Molesley.)

The small scene at the every end of the episode where Molesly sighs and admits that he’s missed his vocation by not being a teacher, that he’s missed everything but Daisy doesn’t have to is heartbreaking in its realism and incredible in its generosity at the same time. Molesley is amazing, and even after all this time, I still want to know more about him.

Kristen Bell is my spirit animal. Photo: The Ellen Show

Cora Does the Right Thing. Anna fills Mary in on Cora’s return, and subsequent dressing down of half of the Team Servants over Mrs. Hughes’ wedding attire. She says she’s never seen Cora so angry, and that Mrs. Hughes feels just terrible about everything now. Mary is appalled and promises to fix everything. She goes straight to her mother’s room and asks what on earth she was thinking, being rude about the evening coat situation and insulting a woman who has served their family faithfully for years. Cora looks ashamed, and Mary is sporting that expression that she gets when she just can’t believe how American her mother can be sometimes. 

To her credit, however, Cora does immediately attempt to make things right. She goes to see Mrs. Hughes downstairs, in order to apologize and make a wedding present of the coat she’d been planning to borrow. (It’s a really good apology too, which helps a lot. I’m so relieved, because I don’t like disliking Cora!)

The Carson and Mrs. Hughes Wedding is Perfect. Happily, after all the mess about the location and the dress, the Carson/Mrs. Hughes wedding ends up being pretty perfect. And, unlike the nuptials of the one of Downton’s other big couples (cough cough Matthew and Mary cough cough) we actually get to everything!

We get to see Mrs. Patmore, Anna and Baxter arrive to dress the bride as Carson nervously practices his vows in his office. Molesley reminds him that he should probably pick some ushers before the ceremony and he does (Molesley, Thomas, and Andrew). The ceremony is lovely, and the entire Crawley family attends, even the Dowager Countess! (Awwwww. She and Carson have been through the proverbial wars together, one would assume.)

 In case you were curious, here is a snapshot of what it looked like at my house during this entire wedding sequence: 

Marshall from "How I Met Your Mother" speaks for me. Photo: CBS

Then, at the reception, Carson makes an absolutely incredible toast to his new wife, and the entire explosion of perfection is topped off by the return of Tom Branson, who has, as we all knew he eventually would, decided that perhaps is America is not for him. But it’s actually really awesome and moving – Mary and the family are overjoyed to see him, but so are Carson and Mrs. Hughes. It’s a great – and actually, probably necessary – reminder that Tom used to be part of Team Servants once upon a time, and he has real relationships with the happy couple that are on a totally different level than anyone else in the Crawley family.

In short: It’s a fantastic way for him to return, and a pretty perfect ending to a very strong episode. 

Thoughts? Criticisms? Just have emotions you need to get out? Hit the comments. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Twitter at @LacyMB