Oct 9, 2020
Downton Abbey: More Happy Endings Than at A Massage Parlor (S6 E9 Recap)
It’s the last episode of Downton Abbey ever! Will we go out on a note of death and disaster? Nope, it’s happy endings all around, even for the undeserving (by which we mean Thomas Barrow and Mary Crawley). Let’s keep our celebratory drinking game simple and classic. Every time “the future,” “the world to come” or like phrases are mentioned have a shot of champagne, port, claret, or whatever old-timey beverage you choose, but remember it’s a double-whammy, so have a designated driver, and if you happen to be suffering from an ulcer, we’d suggest you use a plastic table covering and avoid spewing bloody vomit on your guests.
Here’s what happened during the first-half to the posh people:
It’s long enough after Mary’s wedding for Henry to be totally comfortable sponging off the Crawleys. Henry doesn’t seem to have his own valet. Does he dress himself? It’s not like he has much else to do, then again neither does Bates, so maybe he can borrow him when needed. Mostly Henry sits around looking pretty while Mary runs the joint. He’s soured on racing since the accident, but wants to be “worthy” of Mary’s love. Mary for her part, seems fine with Henry shaking (not stirring) cocktails for the family when they have a fancy dress picnic on the lawn. She’s loves to come home to her sweet lovely man after a hard day of wrastling dehydrated pigs and other agenting duties.
Tom,who continues to be way too invested in other people’s lives, suggests Henry will have to find another way to express his special love of cars. When did Tom start to get creepy? Will we ever know what really happened to him in America? Henry and Tom start planning some mysterious business venture, which they don’t tell anyone about because that’s how things roll in Downton. We know it has something to do with cars, and it isn’t racing. Could it be a petrol station? Will they turn out to have invented the car wash and oil change? They could name the chain, Lady Mary’s Lube.
Robert’s not thrilled with Cora’s hospital gig, but like Henry’s lack of gainful employment, this plot point never really ignites. There’s lingering coolness between Violet and Cora as well, but Violet claims it’s Robert who still has issues.
Those star-crossed lovers, Isobel and Dickie are now back being friends, but not sweethearts because Isobel still doesn’t want to subject herself to Grey family mishigosh. Dickie mysteriously stands her up for a lunch date and when she sees him again, he has some bad news. A “Harley street” doctor (you know like the kind that killed Sybil) diagnosed him with pernicious anemia, which is fatal. He’s very stiff upper lipped about it (of course) but when he tells Isobel his one big regret is that they never married, she looks stricken, but doesn’t break down because that wouldn’t be English. She coaxes him into getting another blood test at the local hospital. The former Miss Crockoshite, who is now Awful Larry’s Terrible Wife, has managed to track them down, no-doubt relying on her vast network of
flying monkeys spies, and is waiting with the car when they leave the hospital. She has the driver strong-arm Dickie into the backseat and tells poor Isobel to leave them alone. Later Isobel stops by Dickie’s house. The servants make her wait outside, and then the former Miss Crookedshift comes to the door, and slams it in her face. Naturally, Isobel confides in Violet, who we all know has a creamy center of romantic mush underneath bullet-proof exterior. Violet insists that Dickie must be rescued. The two somehow get past the staff – probably with Violet brandishing her cane, and make enough of a fuss to bring Dickie to the stairs. Really, those two – the Grace and Frankie of the 1920’s. The former Miss Cootiepants is very upset at Awful Larry for not keeping her father-in-law sufficiently restrained, or following her original plan of suffocating him with a pillow.
Violet tells Dickie they were denied entry and his son and daughter-in-law are keeping him prisoner. The former Miss Cockensmut insists that Isobel is trying to kidnap him into marriage. Dickie thinks that’s “perfectly marvelous.” He tells Larry he can have the big house, and then he goes to get his things. Yes, he gives up being lord of the manor for the woman he loves! It’s like a preview of Wallis and Edward if they weren’t horrible people and Nazi sympathizers. Love wins (even with Death shadowing).
But of course the big story is all about poor old Edith. Edith is thinking of moving to London full time, not only for work, but so Marigold can go to school because girls go to school in these modern times. Speaking of which, why haven’t they shipped Master George off yet? And wouldn’t Tom still have enough egalitarian spirit to register Sybie at the village school? Cora and Robert can’t understand why Edith would want to leave Downton. The rest of us can’t understand how Edith could still be living under the same roof as Mary. Edith remarks that spinsters live alone and she’s a spinster. It’s said more with resignation (and even a little irony) than self-pity, and she doesn’t add, “Thanks to my bitch-sister,” though no one could blame her if she did.
In London, Edith is off to lunch at the Ritz with Rosamund, but when she gets there, Bertie is waiting for her and her aunt leaves. Bertie confesses that Mary set it up, which probably explains why Edith looks around with horror, afraid it’s a nightmarish prank. Bertie is near tears and begs Edith to marry him. She asks about telling his fearsome mother the awful truth, which is bound to come out given that everyone in Grantham knows except Isobel for some inexplicable reason. Bertie who broke up with her over the “trust” issue, tells her that if they tell his mother, they’ll have to break with her, so here’s one case where maybe honesty is not the best policy – thus immediately telegraphing the fatal flaw and/or minor impediment that’s coming.
What caused Mary’s change of heart? Edith predicted it on Mary’s wedding day. She’s nicer when she’s happy, and Henry is doing a good job of keeping her satisfied.
Cora and Robert are thrilled, delighted and surprised that Edith pulled off an advantageous marriage, which in their world is the greatest achievement humanly possibly. They are going to meet Edith and Bertie at Brancaster Castle – Bertie’s digs, where his mother will be making the official engagement announcement at a swanky dinner. Brancaster (which we saw at last year’s season finale) makes Downton look like a Motel 6 and Mrs.
Bucket Palmer has quickly adapted to her new role as lady of the manor – even though Edith will be the one marrying into that title – if the marriage comes off, which will be iffy for the next 80 minutes.
When the Crawleys meet Mrs Palmer, all she can talk about is how she and Bertie will “rebuild Brancaster as a moral center.” She starts in on cousin Peter’s “lifestyle” – not a word she uses but given Julian Fellowes’ penchant for anachronism she probably could have – hinting at what we can only imagine went on in Tangiers. (We got it last week. Cousin Peter liked him some fisherman or maybe all fishermen.)
Bertie finally insists she can it, but not before she’s managed to say that as the new royals, they can’t afford any hint of scandal.
Does Mrs. Palmer notice the look of utter panic on Edith’s face? Nope. (Kudos to Laura Carmichael for the most melodramatic faces in a a single episode of anything since The Perils of Pauline.) Once Mrs P. leaves the room, Robert grabs his drink and says, “Golly,” in that way only Robert can. Later, Edith confides her worries to her father, who begs her not to make this “more difficult than it needs to be,” in other words ixnay on the abybay. Robert really doesn’t want to see her blow this. He’d like to have an unlimited weekend pass to Brancaster. The next time we see Edith, however, she’s about to have a chat with Mrs. Palmer because if there’s one thing Edith can’t do, it’s leave well enough alone.
Afterwards, Bertie and his mother argue about his bride-to-be who Mrs. Palmer refers to as “damaged goods” which given that she’s a commoner and Edith is still the Earl of Grantham’s daughter makes us want to slap her even though when we started watching we were commies, but after all these years, like Tom we have been totally co-opted. Bertie doesn’t cave. Thank goodness because it’s the finale damn it and if anyone deserves the fairy tale ending, it’s Edith, so nothing can possibly derail the happy train except more revelations, the return from the dead of a blind, crippled, disfigured, and/or amnesiac Michael Gregson or the real Patrick, or maybe some horrid hunting or riding accident, or a car crash, or someone going to jail for murder, or Bertie bailing at the last minute or his being killed by brownshirts, and/or an act of God.
Later at the luncheon or dinner or whatever it is that involves the world’s longest dining table, Mrs. Palmer thanks the guests for coming without managing the announcement, so Bertie gets up to do it. Robert totally saves the day by whispering to her, “I suggest you speak now or you lose him forever.” Robert has his moments, and this was one of them.
Mama Palmer does her part, and later tells Edith and her parents that she respects Edith’s honesty and thinks they can make this work, by which she means, she realizes Bertie would choose Edith over her, and she’s not going back to being middle-class.
Here is what happened to those who serve during the first half:
Thomas thanks his rescuers, Anna, Andrew and Miss Baxter who once had a first name but even she doesn’t remember what it was. He was given some “breathing space” but is still looking for a new position. Anna suggests he try to figure out what brought him so low. All he’d really need to do would be to review seasons one through five when he was busy blackmailing, spying, ratting people out, and plotting the downfall of others.
Anna is now showing, but she’s not about to pop because not that much time has passed. Carson tells Hughes how odd – by which he means gross and inappropriate – he finds it that she’s still working as a lady’s maid. Hughes points out that in a few years there won’t even be any lady’s maids because talking about what the world will be like in the future is the A #1 conversation topic at Downton.
Andy is sweet on Daisy, but Daisy thinks she could do better on account of all her booklearnin’ and is mean to him. Mrs. Patmore reminds Daisy of her obsession with Alfred which stopped once he actually seemed to be interested in her. Even Mr. Mason thinks Daisy “could do worse,” and finally after stopping by the farm when Andrew is fixing the roof in a tee-shirt, with sweat glistening on his brow like one of those Moroccan fisherman at sunset, Daisy starts to realize maybe she could do worse. But is it too late?
Moar Danker/Sprout antics! Danker overhears Lady Edith talking to Sprout about his column. Will she try to blackmail him? Is the Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican? She teases Violet with hints about Sprout’s being “preoccupied,” but Violet isn’t taking the bait. Clearly, she’ll need an even less subtle approach.
Carson spills some wine, a thing that has never happened before and is therefore extremely important. Hughes tries to talk to him about his shaky hands. He denies he has shaky hands even while his hands are shaking. Will this be one of those anti-climatic things we worry about but then it’s nothing like what happened with Hughes’ cancer scare, or Baxter’s not winding up testifying against her ex, or Robert’s easy dispatching of Mary’s blackmailer? Or is this real? The answer will depend on how it fits into the other subplots that need tying up with a bow.
Thomas finds a job on the other side of York. Because nobody wants to find his bloody corpse in the bathtub, even Carson is no longer being sarcastic to him. No sooner has he given notice, then Moseley comes in with the news that he’s been offered full time employment as a teacher, and has to give an answer soon because the job comes with a cottage and the schoolmaster is afraid if he doesn’t get a new teacher into the cottage STAT, Lady Mary will pull the lease and rent it for top dollar because that’s pretty much how she runs things. This leaves Carson telling Hughes that Andrew will be the only thing between him and Armageddon. Seriously, couldn’t he just unfire Thomas and tell him he might need to take on some more menial tasks but that’s modern times? How big could the pay difference be between a footman and an underbutler? Carson spills more wine, causing Mary to come downstairs and suggest that if there need to be changes, they face them together, but Carson denies that anything is happening. He finally confesses to his wife that it’s some inherited condition that ended the careers of his father and grandfather and there’s nothing to be done.
Moseley tells Baxter his decision. She tells him she’s made a decision too. Thanks to some good advice from the now totally reformed Mr. Barrow, she’s decided to leave the past behind and not visit her nefarious ex in prison. Molesley tells her he’ll come around, and he’ll be helping out on holidays and for special events. Does he still need an excuse? Can’t he just kiss the girl? Can’t he ask her out on a proper date? Why doesn’t the serving class have their own Tom Branson to play Cupid?
Thomas says an early good-bye to Robert and Cora because they won’t be be back from Brancaster until after he’s gone. Cora thanks him again for saving Edith’s life so that she can fulfill her destiny and marry well. That Thomas is partly responsible for averting a tragedy and “saving [Edith] for better things” is not lost on Robert either, but too late to change things now. Thomas tells Baxter, his former blackmailing victim and new straight female bestie, that he’s going to be a different person at his new gig. Let’s just hope that new person isn’t Larry Grey or Mary Crawley.
When Sunday comes and he leaves, Mrs. Hughes kisses him, and Mary brings Sybie and George to say good-bye. We see him walking with his belongings to the station. Crimey! Couldn’t they have gotten him a ride? When he arrives at his new posting, he discovers there won’t be a whole bunch of new staff to win over. It’s him, the cook and the maid. As his employer says, “This is not 1850 you know.” There are no children to play with, and not even any conversations to overhear since it’s just the elderly master of the house and his elderly wife who have nothing to say to each other.
The Crawleys return from what will be known in the family archives as the triumph at Brancaster, and tell the staff they’ll be a wedding at Downton in three months – on New Year’s Eve, so the Christmas decorations will still be up. Downstairs better get busy!
Part II picks up on December 29, 1925, just a couple of days before Edith’s alleged wedding and/or the day Michael Gregson returns from the dead.
Let’s check in with the toffs:
Lady Rose and Atticus arrive. They have a three month old baby they left in New York with the nanny because if we’ve learned anything about the upper classes, we’ve learned that they really don’t love their children. Rose’s mother, Evil Susan, is most definitely NOT coming. Rose’s father, Shrimpy will be there soon, and he’ll be giving a toast at the ceremony because everyone LOVES Shrimpy – even the Prince of Wales if we remember the Season 4 Christmas Special. It’s Rose who will work her usual magic and finally get Robert to see the light about Cora’s job, when she drags him to a hospital open house meeting so he can watch his wife in action and marvel at how magnificent she is. Rose tells him, “If you want to keep her, you must let her go,” something she no doubt will read on an American greeting card in the 1970s when she’s alone in a nursing home because her daughter hates her.
Atticus overhears Henry and Tom talking. They tell him they are going to “reinvent themselves” which probably wasn’t something people said back then, but Tom’s been to America where they talk in anachronistic platitudes all the time. Of course they still don’t reveal exactly what it is they are doing until later in the episode when Tom and Henry surprise Mary by taking her to see their new auto shop. Ta-dah — they’re “second hand” car salesmen, but they may some day have their own line of cars or something because in the “new” England a man can make his fortune in one generation provided he marries the daughter of an earl. Mary is proud he’ll have something to do, and also whispers that they’ll soon be a little Talbot or Talbotess running around in the nursery who they can take out for five minutes of bonding every other week. She tells Henry not a word about it till after Edith leaves on her honeymoon because she doesn’t want to spoil her sister’s thunder. Does Mary have a brain tumor? Because that’s weirder than Carson’s trembling hands.
At a pre-wedding dinner, Rose congratulates Isobel on her marriage. Isobel explains that Dickie isn’t well so she made him stay home to rest, but he’ll be at the wedding. Then she adds that he doesn’t act like someone who is ill. This is of course foreshadowing because later she catches him at the hospital where he’s gone to again get retested because he can’t understand why he’s still alive. Finally in the church right before the ceremony, Dr. Clarkson tells the two old gits, who are both such medical nerds that they barely let him get a word in, that Dickie does NOT have pernicious anemia. He has plain old anemia with low hemoglobin, so they have plenty of time to read medical journals and play doctor with each other.
Poor old Edith the ugly one, looks pretty spectacular in her wedding dress, which by the way has a train a mile and half-long, but is knee-length because this is 1925. Robert is bursting with pride. Wasn’t it only last season that he and Cora were speculating that Edith would be taking care of them in their dotage? Never could he have imagined she’d be taking care of them in her CASTLE.
The ceremony actually happens with both the bride and groom present. We can all finally breathe! Afterwards, at the house, nothing horrific occurs.
Shrimpy reads a telegraph from Mrs. Levinson, who was too decrepit to make the voyage. Robert says to Cora that “in some ways” he wishes she had made it. Cora replies wisely, “but not in every way.” Robert confesses to seeing her at the hospital meeting, and being so proud to have married a “woman of real substance.”
As for Tom, who spent the entire season as Mary’s courtier, he finally gets a hint of a life. He escorts the lovely Miss Linda Edmonds, bottle-blond, cigarette-smoker, and editrix to a seat in the church, and assures her that strong-women are very appreciated around these parts.
And now let’s take a peek below stairs:
Rose’s visit downstairs to say hello to the servants (because Rose doesn’t see class, color, or religion) helps us catch up. Anna is ten days away from her due date. Moseley is teaching, but school’s out for the holiday, so he’s there to help. Barrow is still in his new position, but will be back for the wedding.
Danker has a Christmas present for Sprout. She’s decided to tell Violet his dirty little secret and get him fired. Why? Because she’s terrible. Even Sprout can smell a plot contrivance and asks her why she waited three months to spring this. There’s no real answer because the only answer is: needs moar plot.
Robert asks for some claret at dinner and is surprised when Carson who is standing right next to a bottle, asks Andrew to pour it. Robert and Mary confront Carson who admits he has a problem, and tells them he’ll start interviewing new butlers after the holidays. Mary suggests he stay on, and live in the cottage. He could be the butler emeritus, still keeping an eye on things, and coordinating big events. Carson tells her that he wouldn’t take the job under those circumstances and wouldn’t expect any potential candidate to.
Daisy never told Andy that she decided she liked him, and Andy stopped trying to woo her. Having seen Rose’s smart new haircut, Daisy gets an idea and swipes Mary’s hairdryer. We see her starting to cut her own hair in the bathroom. Hasn’t she been working in this house for fourteen years? Even if she was a slip of girl when she started, doesn’t that make her pushing thirty by now? Why is she still doing this Jan Brady crap?
Danker starts talking to Violet about how Sprout’s changed since he took his new job. She pretends to have no idea that her ladyship didn’t know, and shows her the magazine column. When Danker asks her not to be too hard on him when she gives him his notice, Violet who is laughing so much she can hardly speak asks, “Why would I do that?” Of course she doesn’t fire Danker because Violet LOVES this stuff.
It’s the dawn of the wedding day. Daisy has her hair covered oddly by her cap. She says she’s not going. They make her take off the cap. Andy sees her and laughs. Daisy runs out of the room crying. Mrs. Patmore informs him that Daisy lurves him. Anna helps her with her hair, and when Andy sees her again, he tells her she looks like Clara Bow, which she does, but she’s still an idiot. He’s the one who has to patiently explain to her that they’ve been “out of step” with each other.
After the ceremony, when Patmore and Daisy are scurrying to get the food upstairs, Anna comes down and takes something for a “stomach upset” which on television can only mean that labor is imminent. Anna wonders if Marigold, who’s being moved to Brancaster, will ever know the truth. Hughes reminds her “the less said the better.” Wonder how long it’ll take the staff at Brancaster to figure things out?
Upstairs, Carson’s “palsy” kicks in and he becomes very frustrated when he can’t pour the wine. Henry offers to help, but Barrow steps in. Carson is mortified. Robert announces that he has the answer. Barrow will step in as the new butler. Carson will stay in the cottage and act as the “elder statesman.” Mary loves the plan and helps sell it by reminding Carson that Barrow is certainly experienced. Carson is worried that he’s forcing Barrow’s hand, but Barrow is just thrilled to have his return ticket to Downton.
Anna goes upstairs to return Mary’s hairdryer. Mary is also in her room taking a break from the festivities to admire her reflection (They don’t call them vanity tables for nothing.) Anna’s water breaks, and suddenly in a reversal of the natural orders of things Mary is helping Anna get undressed and get on her bed. Henry runs to find Bates. Hughes takes towels up the backstairs. Carson does NOT approve.
In the kitchen, Mason is happy about Daisy’s decision to move to the farm, and tells Mrs. Patmore he hopes this means she’ll be coming around more. You bet she will! And it looks like Daisy will be okay with sharing.
Now that nothing is the same and all the old class barriers are breaking down, let’s mix up the upstairs and downstairs stuff:
Edith and Bertie are about to leave. Edith tells Robert she’s never been so “truly happy,” and still seems to be in a state of shock owing to what happened the last time she tried to get hitched, and her track record in general. When she throws her bouquet, it’s the perky Editrix who catches it, with Tom standing next to her, and commenting on her “luck.”
Robert and Carson talk about how “the world will be a different place” because that’s a thought the series hasn’t been drumming into us for six years. Robert tells Carson how grateful the family is to him, wishes him a happy New Year, and shakes his hand.
Upstairs, Anna has given birth to a son. That sure was quick! She tells Mary she’d like to keep working, if they can “sort out the baby.” Mary tells her the baby will spend his days in the nursery. Who knew that Downton would be a pioneer in workplace daycare? Bates is with Anna and looks less like a man who would cut your throat and then buy a round for everyone at the pub than he usually does.
Cora and Robert stop by to offer congratulations. Anna looks pretty remarkable for a woman who just gave birth like five seconds ago, but then again she was only in labor for two minutes. She apologizes for being there and assures everyone she’ll clear out as soon as she can get dressed.
In the hallway, Cora and Robert joke about how Violet would find this unorthodox, but being flexible may be the key to survival given that they never know what’s coming. (And by this time, anyone playing tonight’s drinking game will be probably be dead of an alcohol overdose.)
Tom is handing out champagne because it’s almost midnight.
Violet graciously hands the reigns to a new generation by telling Cora it’s her kingdom, her village and her hospital, and she runs it very well. Yay, Violet for continual awesomeness!
We get a quick shot of Bertie and Edith smooching in the car as they drive away.
Carson and Hughes referring to each other by their civilian names, think they “can make a go of it.” Even Carson is learning to roll with the punches.
It’s time for downstairs to toast to the New Year and Mrs. Hughes starts leading them in a round of Auld Lang Syne, while upstairs, Violet and Isobel are sitting together. Has Dickie left early to get some sleep? They drink to, wait for it, “the future.” As Isobel says, they are forced to go forward not back. Violet gets the last line, “If only we had a choice…” But Isobel gets a final “get her” shrug as she takes a sip.
There’s a shot of snow-decorated Downton, as we hear the final chorus, and fade out – FOREVER. But was that a lone figure limping toward the front door? Could it have been Michael Gregson? Maybe not.