Downton Abbey: Open House (S6 E6 Recap)

 

downton abbey s6 cast

Hurrah, Robert lives, but he’s still recuperating, so many scenes take place with the family around him in his bedroom, like the first one in which they discuss the plan to open the house to the common rabble to raise some dough for the local hospital. Robert thinks the idea is “crackers,” but Mary thinks it’s swell, and she’s running the joint as though her dear befuddled stuck in the 19th century papa had died the night of the most unfortunate dinner party.

Wouldn’t they raise more by having a charitable auction or something aimed at the big spenders instead of the poor working folk? Then again, the rich are a lot less rich and can’t even afford an under butler. Speaking of which, Robert tells Carson to move things along with getting rid of Thomas – you know the guy who’s been there forever, and saved Edith’s life that time she almost set the house on fire. They aren’t ready to can him just yet, but Carson will turn the heat up on the fire they’ve lit under his ass.

Granted, there are probably plenty of reasons to fire Thomas, like his being a blackmailing snake and all, but if you were going by who does the least work, wouldn’t that be Bates? Isn’t he supposed to be Robert’s valet? When was the last time we saw him do any valeting? Did Robert learn how to dress and undress himself during one of Bates’ many prison stints? The guy just hangs around the servants’ hall eating, and looking like he’d definitely kill anyone who questions him about what exactly it is he does.

Mary notices Thomas playing with the children. She mentions to Robert how good he is with the kids, and Robert says in that case George can hire him back when he’s in charge. This is a small battle for Mary, so she lets Robert win.

Edith and Mary are sniping at each other as per usual. Who thinks it’ll come to fisticuffs before the finale? Vote now who would you most like to see in a cat fight: Edith versus Mary, Violet versus Isobel, or Daisy versus Mrs. Patmore?More about that last one later.

Mary isn’t overly impressed with Bertie, Edith’s dull estate agent. That’s probably a good thing. If he seemed like a catch it would just give her more reason to strike out at her sister.  Edith, for her part, isn’t too impressed with Henry, whom she refers to as Mary’s oily mechanic.

Would you let this man look under your hood?

Would you let this man look under your hood?

Mary still hasn’t completely figured out the Marigold thing.  You’d think she’d just confront Violet or Cora given that she overheard them talking, but nope. She mentions Marigold (again) to Anna who almost says the children get along so well because they’re all cousins, but she stops herself. “They’re all CLEVER. I was totally going to say CLEVER. Not cousins. How could they possibly be cousins? Definitely not cousins, m’lady.”  Come on, show. We’re almost done. How long is it going to take Mary to get verification? And what will she do when she gets it?

Anna is having some pain, which might mean more sorrow for the Bates’ or just an excuse for a jaunt to London, since Bates and Mary both insist that Anna must go to the good doctor in London and not Clarkson. Couldn’t someone cut Dr. Clarkson a break? He just saved Robert’s life, and if they’d listened to him years ago, Sybil would probably still be alive. So it’s off to London for Mary and Anna. Mary will of course be enjoying the town while there. She invites Tom, but not Edith even though Edith was right in front of her. Then there’s some more nastiness. It’s a good thing they have beaus because it sounds like both sisters need to chillax if you know what I mean.

Did anyone think we were done with the hospital thing Ha! Did Granny win because the village clinic saved Robert’s life? Nope, but she thinks she won, and comes over to gloat. She suggests that as the President aka “the representative of the patients on earth” she should cut a ribbon or something when they do the open house that she doesn’t approve of. What she doesn’t know is that Board of Trustees wrote Dr. Clarkson with some news. The takeover is happening. Clarkson and Isobel keep their positions in the “cottage hospital,” but Violet’s being retired, and Cora is going to be the new president. Everyone’s afraid to tell her because nobody tells anybody anything, so they’re waiting till she gets a letter from the Board, probably at some very inopportune time because it’s not like that won’t make her go totally ballistic.

Over in London town, it turns out Anna’s pain was nothing abnormal. Mary meets a bunch of people from her set, plus Henry, for dinner at some swanky restaurant. She drags along Tom, and Henry drags the guy he was racing with last time, who’s may be his version of Tom.  Golly, Tom’s awfully comfortable with the swells since he’s been back. He continues in his role as Mary’s courtier, and matchmaker. It looks like unless Henry dies in a fiery auto crash, which they totally wouldn’t do to Mary AGAIN, he is the inevitable candidate for her affections, so those Mary/Tom ‘shippers really need to hush.

Mary likes to accessorize.

Mary likes to accessorize.

Henry and Mary kiss.  He practically proposes and tells her he knows he’s hardly Dutch cap worthy. He also knows how Matthew died, but wants Mary to give cars another chance because cars are his friend. Seriously, he left The Good Wife for this? Not to sound like Granny Violet here, but other than a nice smile, what exactly does he bring to the table?

Bertie arrives for a weekend at Downton. Edith brings him into the “night nursery” where nanny is just sitting on a chair guarding the children like a Doberman. She asks if she can be excused to go to the “sewing room,” which is probably the polite way of saying she needs to use the lou. Do they have a night nanny and a day nanny? Will he ever be allowed to view the children when they’re awake? Bertie, like everyone else, thinks Marigold is a lucky little girl to be raised by a nanny in a house  that’s bigger than the Tate, but Edith hasn’t told him whose lucky little girl she is yet.

But enough about the foundling child who like Chekov’s gun on the mantelpiece is sure to make a loud noise plot wise before the end of the season. Let’s get back to the important stuff – like the hospital subplot. Robert doesn’t think Cora should be taking on the presidency. It sounds like Dr. Clarkson actually expects her to work, and their kind don’t do that sort of thing. Cora thinks Robert is saying she’s too old to do it, and she gets huffy. Also Robert isn’t sure if Bertie is good enough for Edith, but Cora is thinking, it’s Edith they’re talking about.

On the Dickie/Isobel will they or won’t they front,  Dickie’s awful son Larry has a new fiancée, a Miss Crenshaw. Miss Crenshaw for some nefarious reason probably, is trying to buddy up to Isobel. Good job of introducing a new character in the final reel! When she meets Violet, she tells her that everyone has it wrong and Larry isn’t Mrs. Crawley’s enemy. No fool, Violet replies that he does a magnificent imitation.

If it's willingly engaged to evil, it's probably evil.

If it’s willingly engaged to evil, it’s probably evil.

The night before the open house, Bertie warns everyone they can’t just open the doors and let people meander. They’ll need to have servants stationed in every room to make sure nobody swipes anything, and they’ll have to run tours – get em’ in, get em’ out. Shouldn’t their estate agent have thought this through? Nobody really knows enough about the house to be a guide, but Mary, Cora, and Edith are all game. What could go wrong? If only their librarian weren’t out of town! Wait, they have a librarian?

Now that would be a crossover.

Now that would be a crossover.

Before we get to the tour, let’s have a look at these events and more as seen by the downstairs people.

Carson’s still after his lovely wife to get more household tips from the staff, especially but not limited to the cooking department. He criticizes her coffee making skills and even how she makes the bed. Let’s hope he doesn’t compare her lovemaking to some tart he knew in Chelsea (also named Elsie) back in the days he was trodding the boards. Despite his own propensity for sarcasm, he has zero ability to detect sarcasm aimed at him. He doesn’t get Elsie’s frustration with this bullshit, so it’s only a matter of time till she brains him with a frying pan.  He’s also having a tough time with this open house nonsense, which can only lead to envy from the lower classes. When Robert comments that there’s not much to see at Downton and maybe they should be showing them “Lady Mary in the bath,” Carson fails to get the somewhat inappropriate humor, and raises an eyebrow as if to say his Lordship has gone mad.

Carson reminds Thomas (on his master’s orders) that time is not his friend, and he better find another job because under butlers are “fragrant of the past.” Later he sees Andy coming out of Thomas’s room. His suspicions grow to certainty when Mrs. Patmore tells him she heard Thomas and Andrew having a “your place or mine” discussion.

Daisy is being her usual, petty, childish self. Why do the other servants always try to stop her from getting herself fired? Mr. Mason gives her a letter for Mrs. Patmore thanking her for her help. She throws it away, but Patmore finds it open in the trash (which she probably goes through regularly because it is a house of intrigue, secrets, and lies). Is Daisy planning to marry Mason herself? Is she afraid he’s going to cut her out of his will? Later, Mason comes by with some fresh veggies for Mrs. Patmore because nothin’ says loving like broccoli rabe.  Daisy makes a scene.

And guess what? Daisy thinks the open house would be even better if they’d just redistribute all the wealth, proving once more that she’s suffering from Miss Bunting disease, which turns you into an insufferable socialist because there is no other kind of socialist in Baron Fellowes’ world.

It’s also time for her to take her exams, which Mosely is arranging. The schoolmaster tells him he’d like to give him a test as well – general knowledge. He’s a bit vague on where this might lead, but it sounds like he’s thinking Mr. Mosely might have a higher vocation than blackening boots. Poor Mr. Mosely! Can you see him pulling off a Sidney Poitier To Sir With Love thing? Those kids will eat him alive.

While others talk about future plans, Mrs. Patmore is actually making them, and without a man to lead the way.  She’s turning the house she bought as an investment into a B&B. Her niece is going to run it, and she’s taking reservations using the latest tech – a telephone.  Yay, grrrl power!

In another subplot that’s probably going nowhere, Baxter (who really doesn’t have a first name) has received a letter from the scoundrel from her past, now doing a ten-year stretch, who we will probably never meet unless he escapes and heads straight for Downton, which could totally be a thing that happens in the Christmas special because something has to happen this season besides Robert’s spewing blood – however awesome that was. Mosely tells her not to read the letter. As usual she ignores his advice. See what I mean? If he can’t get her to listen to him, how will he ever get children to?

No Denker and Sprout theatrics this week.

Now, let’s go back upstairs and see if our plots intersect.

It’s open house time. There’s a record breaking crowd because television and the intertubes haven’t been invented yet.  Cora, Mary, and Edith don’t know a hell of a lot about where they live, and this complete lack of intellectual curiosity no doubt is what caused the extinction of the aristocracy. Will Mr. Mosely step up and butt in with his knowledge of history? No such luck, but Moseley is present for Cora’s tour, in which she recounts how Henry the something, sacked the place which had been a Norman monastery. When someone asks if that’s why it’s called, Downton Abbey, it’s clear Cora never made the connection before.

Well, it's not like Robert married her for her brain.

Well, it’s not like Robert married her for her brain.

Then she’s interrupted by Violet who got the letter from the Board and is really, really, mad. She’s also angry. Violet doesn’t care that she has an audience. She starts reaming out Cora in front of everyone. Well, those people sure got their money’s worth!

Next, Violet goes up to see her son. Robert, takes this calmly, and doesn’t spew blood at his mother, but does tell her she’s being ridiculous, and their time has passed because we must never forget for a second the theme of the show. After she leaves, a little urchin comes out from behind something. He and Robert have a chat. The tyke doesn’t understand why anyone with enough money to buy a comfortable home would prefer to live in a museum like Downton. Robert tells him it’s what he’s used to. Mosely shows up, and the boy runs away, which may be foreshadowing to Moseley’s future as a truancy officer. But was he really there in the first place, or was he just a symbol of the future?

After the tour, the family is recovered enough from Violet’s visit to discuss how well it went. Tom imagines a future where they run tours for themselves, not charity. Like that would happen! Next thing they’ll be renting out rooms! Edith thinks it’s sad how everyone wants to see how they live because no one lives like that anymore. Mary assures the family that she and George aren’t going anywhere, and for a moment I flashed to Nicole Kidman as ghost mom at the end of The Others, proclaiming the house is hers and she’ll haunt anyone who gets in her way. Why do I have visions of grey-haired Mary with a rifle, threatening the tax man?

Mary in her later years.

Mary in her later years.

And in another part of the house, Carson decides to have a few words with Thomas on the subject of his corrupting Andy – a “vulnerable young man.” Thomas doesn’t tell him that he’s giving Andy secret reading lessons, but assures him nothing he’d disapprove of is going on. Carson doesn’t believe him because what are the odds of his telling the truth? He doesn’t tell him to pack up his bags forthwith, but it doesn’t look good. There goes Thomas’ chance of getting hired as a manny. Then he goes off to cry in his room — yup, crying because from his point of view he’s been nothing but wronged, misunderstood, and falsely accused.

And yet like Miss Baxter, we do feel bad for him.

And yet like Miss Baxter, we do feel bad for him.

Will Thomas burn down the house in a fit of rage?  Will Mary find happiness with her handsome grease-monkey?  Will Edith and Bertie bore each other to death, or will Michael Gregson appear on the doorstep and claim her because nobody is dead on a soap opera unless you see the body? Who knows, but honestly with only two more episodes and the Christmas special something better happen soon.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Downton Abbey

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