Downton Abbey: Lady Mary Takes Charge (S6 E2 Recap)
Last season we were constantly reminded that CHANGE was a coming. This time around, the message is not that change has arrived, but that “our way of life is dying.” It’s the difference between knowing global warming is real versus swimming to work.
Yet, the final season offers a chance to wrap things up before it all falls apart. So far it doesn’t look too gloomy or doomy. We’ve already seen the Bates both get exonerated in the death of the loathsome Mr. Green. Hughes and Carson are still on their way to the alter. Cora and Robert seem solid again after a couple of bumps. And last season both the Crawley “girls” met fellas, even if we haven’t seen or heard from them again yet. Happiness is still possible, and at least for now some things remain the same, like the unfortunately named dog, now deceased, but still shown in the opening credits.
And so to breakfast. The servants bustle. Moseley irons the newspapers the way he always has. Cora still gets her tray brought up because why on earth would she bother coming down. Carson maintains standards even if the diminished staff isn’t quite up to his. Mary and Edith snip at each other as they have from time immemorial. In this case, Edith started it, sort of. Mary talks about a letter from Rose. She guesses Rose might be having a baby based on a remark she made about delaying a planned visit. Edith remarks her sister is “adding two plus two and getting fifty-three.”
Oh Edith, don’t! We understand why you’d want to, but in a battle, Mary is always going to come out on top.
Robert mentions the contretemps about the hospital and a meeting Violet called for later that day. He’s keeping the news from Cora, which can’t be a good thing. Seriously? The last season and whether or not the local hospital is put under the control of the bigger hospital is the main dramatic event?
Carson tells his lordship that Mr. Finch has arrived and is waiting to speak with “the agent.” Mary says she’ll talk to him because after proving her mettle to Robert last week, she has the job. Robert offers Carson the use of the servants’ hall for the wedding. Mary is appalled. That will not stand. She doesn’t contradict him in front of Carson, but clearly HER Carson deserves to be wed in the main house. She goes to see Finch who tries to roll with the punches when she tells him she’s the new Branson. He tells her about the upcoming, “Fat Stock Show.”
Downstairs, Carson mentions his lordship’s generosity to his intended. She tells him no way. She won’t be a servant on her wedding day. Go Elsie! Or whatever your first name is.
The very cozy hospital board meeting consists of Dr. Clarkson, Robert, Isabel, and Violet. Isobel insists Robert tell Cora about the next one.
Downstairs, the new guy, Andrew, who is very much enjoying country life wants to walk around the estate. He rejects Thomas’ offer to come with. If that wasn’t bad enough, when Thomas asks Carson if he should start looking for another job, Carson tells him in the smuggest possible way, “It couldn’t hurt.”
Apparently, despite being down to minimal staffing levels, no one has much to do because everyone is off doing something. Mr. Mosley heads over to the school on some mysterious mission, which turns out to be scoring old exams for Daisy to study off of.
Upstairs, Edith is on the phone with her editor. There’s yelling. Didn’t we see this last week? Oh heavens! This almost makes her late for tea! Robert warns everyone they need to finish up because the children will be coming in for their daily five minute visit before they return to the dungeon or wherever it is that they spend the rest of the day. Edith kvetches about her editor, and Mary looks up from her paper and makes her “Jesus Christ on a stick does she think she’s the only one with a job around here?” face. George and the Foundling Child what Looks Like Lady Edith enter the room. George asks if he can see the piggies (the Fat Stock) with his mum. Mary says she’ll take both George and the foundling child to the Drew’s farm. Edith asks if it’s safe because she can’t think of a way to tell Mary not to take Marigold to the Drews that won’t incriminate her. Nobody else can come up with anything either. Edith will be in London, so Cora offers to go with Mary and the children. Looks are exchanged between Robert, Cora, and Edith. Does Mary notice any of this?
Mary does notice that Anna isn’t exactly jumping for joy despite not having to spend the rest of her life in jail. She gets her to fess up about the miscarriages.
Isobel runs into Dickie who’s coming out of the post office because his lordship – unlike some other lordships – mails his own letters. They discuss the hospital biz. He’s glad they’re on the same side because Violet and Clarkson are both digging in their heels (and also because he SOOO wants to get back with Isobel.) This week’s new English phrase for Americans is “Wigs on the green,” which means a fracas, which they’re both expecting because Lady Violet is not to be trifled with. She could kill them with her bon mots.
Back downstairs, Andrew rejects Thomas’ offer to help him wind up the clocks, which in not a euphemism, but may have been Julian Fellows idea of a naughty bit. Baxter tries again to be nice to Thomas, despite his having blackmailed her, and again he rejects her kindness. Will Thomas be redeemed by or before the end of the Christmas special? And why do we feel bad for him?
At the farm, Mr. Drew and Cora are engaging in some heavy duty subtext in front of Mary. Mrs. Drew is in town, and Mary is trying to hustle everyone home before she comes back. Too late! Mrs. Drew latches onto Marigold. Mr. Drew talks her down the same way one would talk to a person WHO WAS COMPLETELY INSANE. He even manages to disengage her from the child without using a fork lift. Mary doesn’t pick up on much of this, but she is a bit perturbed when Mr. Drew tells Marigold to go on home with her “auntie.”
Back at Downton, Robert asks Cora if Mrs. Drew was at the farm. She tells him she was, but they don’t talk about it because Mary is there. Before Carson can talk to Robert about the wedding, Mary tells Carson that Robert misspoke, and of course he can have the wedding in the big house.
Downstairs, Anna is crying to Bates because of the baby thing. Bates mentions adoption. She doesn’t think it would work for Bates because he’s “tribal” and then she goes on talking about how she’s wrecked his life. If this season doesn’t end with her having a baby, they’ll be mass demonstrations in front of Baron Fellowes’ home.
Rosamund is hanging with Edith in London. Edith mentions a phone call from Cora and news about the farm visit. Rosamund tells her she’s going to have to tell Mary one day. Then Edith recounts the hospital business to Rosamund, so that we can get a summary again, in case we were in a horrible accident and suffered brain damage since we last heard about it.
Thomas is at a nearby estate where he is suffering through the worst job interview ever for an “assistant butler” position, which isn’t even a real thing. The position will combine the duties of an under butler, footman, and chauffeur. When Thomas balks, Mr. Moore, the butler interviewing him is not amused, and tells him to come down off his high horse. Then Moore suggests that Thomas is a “delicate looking man” and after that he pointedly asks about his marital status, and not in a “I’m just asking for a friend ’cause you are hot” kind of way.
That evening, Mary tells Anna she’s taking her to the same doctor she saw when she was having trouble conceiving. Anna is convinced it won’t do any good because she is cursed, and that Mary is being too generous because she’s so undeserving. Mary reminds Anna she owes her, and mentions some of the ways, including that incident with the Turk what dropped dead in Mary’s bed way back in season one. Good times. They can laugh about it now! Anna agrees to go, not that she has a choice, but she isn’t going to tell her husband because she doesn’t want to get his hopes of, and also because if people told each other stuff there would be no possibilities of misunderstandings leading to tragic consequences.
Robert and Cora have a little pillow talk about the Drew farm business. We are again given a rationale for Edith’s not telling Mary about Marigold – FEAR – even though we just heard this five minutes ago in Edith’s conversation with Rosamund. Cora thinks the Drews should go, but Robert won’t throw them off their farm. Then there’s more talk about the hospital in case we forgot about that too.
Downstairs, Hughes and Carson talk about the wedding. She’s doesn’t want to get married in the big house either. She’ll tell his lordship if Carson’s too chicken. Carson drinks some port to get his courage up.
Anna tells Bates she’s going to London with Mary. He hopes it’ll cheer her up, and says something about her “putting her feet up,” which is an awkward pun because she’s really going to see a gynecologist. And then in case we didn’t get it, Anna says, “Yes, I’ll definitely be putting my feet up.” Gynecologists jokes are hysterical.
Cora comes down to breakfast the next morning or the one after that. Who knows? The days all seem to run together when life is so fast paced. Robert shocked to see his wife out of bed before noon, actually says, “To what do we owe this honor?” Cora doesn’t hit him, but indicates she was miffed about missing that last meeting, and tells him she’s touring the hospital with Isobel and Violet. Mary asks Carson if he’s decided about the wedding. He tries to tell them he is not worthy, but Mary INSISTS and says she’ll talk to Hughes herself.
Isabel and Violet start using their outdoor voices in the middle of the ward as they fight over Cora. Clarkson ushers everyone into his office. Cora makes it clear she’s all for the modernization/consolidation plan. She impresses everyone, and possibly even begins to move Clarkson a degree or so closer to her position. Is the younger Lady Grantham finally emerging from that coma she’s been in since the end of the Great War?
Robert talks to Mr. Drew, who says he’ll handle his wife and begs stay on land his family has farmed since “before Waterloo.” Say one thing for the USA, we may have genocided the native population, but at least we’re not feudal, yet.
Carson confesses his lack of progress on the wedding venue to Hughes, who tells him, “Heaven for fend we lowly folk should do anything to offend the blessed Lady Mary.” It’s future-wife versus long-term mistress, literally.
Daisy gets an audience with Cora to ask if there’s any way she can help Mr. Mason keep his farm. Cora tells her the new owner is throwing lots of people off. But then Cora seems to get an idea. She doesn’t share it with Daisy, and tells her it probably won’t work. Sounds like she thinks there might be a vacant pig farm coming up on their property.
Mary’s “Harley Street” doctor tells Anna a stitch in time (about the twelveth week of her next pregnancy) could save the baby.
Robert and Cora have more pillow talk. He tells her the Drews are staying and he thinks they’ll be alright. But Robert doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to being right. Then they start talking about the hospital again because it’s clearly the most interesting and important thing going on in their lives. As if to remind us how much “show” time has passed, we hear the click of the electric lamp by the bed, which Cora turns off.
The big day has arrived! Time for the Fat Stock Show.
Robert, Cora, Mary, Edith and the children are all there, as are most of the staff. Mary’s pigs win the biggest prize, but then Mary’s thunder is stolen, and even worse, she loses her ride home when Marigold goes missing, and it turns out Mrs. Drew took her back to Yew Tree Farm. When Robert, Edith, and Cora go off in the car with Mr. Drew, Anna explains to Mary that Mrs. Drew found Marigold and took her back to the farm “for safety.” This makes no sense, but it doesn’t have anything to do with anyone Mary cares about, so once again she doesn’t question it.
Marigold is in Mrs. Drew’s arms. She tells Mr. Drew that the girl is “home” and “they” weren’t paying any attention to her. He manages again to convince her to hand over the girl, who thankfully wasn’t smothered, and he carries her out to the Crawleys.
He tells Robert that they’ll go as soon as they’re able. Robert apologizes on behalf of his family for ruining his life and driving his wife crazy. Drew blames himself and Edith for coming up with a plan that didn’t take his wife’s “emotions” into account. Let’s hope he gets a nice pay off. Given that the Crawleys are probably going to go broke soon and wind up selling off everything, Drew may come out ahead by getting out early.
So, what will it take for Mary to put two and two together and actually get the correct answer? And how will she use the information to hurt her sister? Will the hospital stay independent or get swallowed up by modernity? But more importantly, will Mrs. Hughes get the wedding she wants?